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Women's health centre

Mastectomy - Before your mastectomy

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Before having a mastectomy, you can discuss the procedure with a nurse or surgeon. You may also receive treatment beforehand to reduce the size of any tumours.

A nurse can talk to you about how the procedure might affect you physically and emotionally. They can also give you practical advice about bras and prostheses (bra inserts), if you need them.

If you want to know what your scar will look like after your surgery, you may be able to see photographs of other people who have had the procedure.

Breast reconstruction

Most women are offered breast reconstruction if they are going to have a mastectomy. This is surgery to create an artificial breast.

It may be possible for you to have breast reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, or you may be advised to wait.

If you choose to have breast reconstruction surgery, talk to your surgeon about when you would like it done and the specific type of surgery you will need.

Read more about breast reconstruction.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapy

Before your operation you may be advised to have treatment to reduce the size of any breast tumours. These treatments include:

If successful, these treatments can reduce the amount of breast tissue that needs to be removed, which may improve the appearance of your breast after surgery.

Preparing for surgery

Before having surgery, you may have some tests to check the cancer has not spread, plus a general check-up to make sure you are fit for the operation.

If you are currently taking any medicines, find out whether you should continue taking them before your operation. Never stop taking a prescribed medication, unless advised to do so by your GP or another qualified healthcare professional responsible for your care.

If you smoke, you may be advised to stop smoking before your operation. This is because smoking can increase the risk of complications during and after your operation, which may increase your recovery time. 

Read more about quitting smoking.  

It is common to be admitted to hospital on the same day of your operation, but you may be admitted the night before. You will be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours before the operation. A nurse will check your temperature, blood pressure and heartbeat.

See how a mastectomy is performed for more information about how the operation is carried out.

Medical Review: December 18, 2012
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