An operation to remove the whole breast

Most of the breast tissue is removed during a mastectomy, which is used to treat breast cancer in both women and men

What is a mastectomy?

A mastectomy is mostly used to treat breast cancer. There are several different types of mastectomy —your consultant will advise you which is right for you.

During the operation, all cancerous tissue is removed from the breast. This is to decrease the risk of the cancer growing back and spreading.

Need to know

  • What happens during surgery? icon plus

    This procedure is carried out under a general anaesthetic, so you'll be asleep. During the operation, your surgeon will make a horizontal or diagonal cut on your breast so they can remove the breast tissue. Some skin will also be removed, the amount depends on the type of mastectomy you have. Your nipple may or may not need to be removed.

    Your surgeon will insert drains to stop fluid and blood building up. These are usually left in for around three to five days. Sometimes breast reconstruction surgery is done at the same time. The size of your scar depends on the amount of skin and tissue being removed.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Before having a mastectomy, talk to your consultant about what's involved. They'll be able to talk to you about how the operation could affect you both physically and emotionally. Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you.

    As you're having general anaesthetic, your consultant will tell you how long to avoid eating and drinking beforehand. You may need to have chemotherapy or hormone therapy to reduce the size of any tumours before your surgery.

    A breast reconstruction may be carried out immediately after a mastectomy but this depends on your treatment plan.
  • After surgery icon plus

    You'll be cared for in hospital overnight following surgery. Your consultant will let you know when you can go home. How long you need to stay depends on the type of surgery you have, but you may need to stay for a few days.

    Your consultant or nurse will let you know how to look after your wounds, and also talk to you about what type of bra you can wear. It usually takes around three to six weeks to recover fully.

Paying for medical treatment

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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