How to Prepare for a Mastectomy

Are you undergoing a mastectomy or double-mastectomy as part of your breast cancer treatment plan? If you are considering this as part of your treatment plan, read on!  Every woman approaches a mastectomy differently. Some are relieved to cut the cancer away. Others mourn the loss of their breasts. Many feel a myriad of emotions in between.

While a mastectomy can seem daunting, one thing that can help you approach the procedure more calmly and confidently is knowing what to expect. Here’s an overview of the process of undergoing a mastectomy and how you can prepare:

Meet with Your Surgeon

Before undergoing surgery, you will meet with your surgeon to discuss the operation. Your doctor may go over your medical history, your plan for anesthesia, and the procedure as a whole. During your session,  you can ask questions about the mastectomy and talk with your surgeon about breast reconstruction. Some reconstruction can occur during the mastectomy, so you will want to determine if this is the right option for you before the day of your mastectomy.

Mastectomy Options

There are several different types of mastectomies. For more information about each, visit our informational page about mastectomies.

  • Simple mastectomy.

In a simple, or total, mastectomy, the entire breast, including the skin, nipple, and areola is removed, without removal of the lymph nodes from the armpit. This type of mastectomy is performed by an elliptical incision that leaves a single scar across the chest.

  • Skin-sparing mastectomy.

This procedure preserves as much of the breast skin as possible to perform immediate breast reconstruction. A skin-sparing mastectomy can be performed as a simple mastectomy or a modified radical mastectomy, where the lymph nodes in the armpit are also removed.

  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy.

In a nipple-sparing mastectomy the breast is removed while retaining the skin, nipple, and areola. This procedure requires no nipple reconstruction.

  • Radical mastectomy

In a radical modified mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, including the skin, nipple, areola, the lining over the chest muscle, and the lymph nodes under the armpit. The chest muscle itself is not removed.

  • Bilateral mastectomy

Bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy refers to a mastectomy before cancer has been found. It is a risk-reducing surgery rather than a prophylactic procedure as even after the mastectomy a small percentage of breast tissue is left, which still bears the risk of developing cancer.

Before the Surgery

Your surgeon will give you precise instructions about how to prepare for the surgery. Preparations may include any of the following:

  • Refraining from taking aspirin or other blood-thinning medications a week or longer before your surgery.
  • Refraining from eating or drinking eight to twelve hours before your surgery.
  • Preparing for a hospital stay by packing a bag with toiletries, clothes, and ways to pass the time.
  • Considering the emotional ramifications of a mastectomy and the options for breast reconstruction. This may involve talking with a therapist and a plastic surgeon.

Breast Reconstruction

At the AiRS Foundation, we help women who’ve had mastectomies due to breast cancer receive reconstruction. Breast reconstruction is often an essential step toward healing and feeling whole again after a mastectomy. But this procedure is often costly, too, which is how we help.
If you or a loved one does not have sufficient funds to cover the procedure, we can provide you with a grant to cover the cost. Applying for a grant is easy! All you need to do is fill out this application!