8 Steps to a Successful Mastectomy

  • Supporting Breast Cancer
    Preparation Is Key to Success
    Your doctor may recommend a mastectomy to treat or prevent breast cancer. Even if you are confident about your decision, the thought of undergoing the actual procedure might be overwhelming. Here are some things you can do to help make your surgery a success.

  • Diverse team of female surgeons in hospital surgery room
    1. Pick the Right Doctor
    One of the most important things you can do for successful mastectomy is to choose a doctor with the right expertise and experience. The more experience the doctor has performing mastectomy, the better able he or she is to anticipate and prevent complications. Read Finding the Right Doctor for Mastectomy to learn how.

  • Hospital building sign
    2. Make Sure Your Hospital Has a Good Success Record
    Where you have your surgery is just as important as who performs your surgery. Your risk of complications and even death can be higher at one hospital compared to another in the same city. Healthgrades.com presents this information in an easy-to-understand ratings format.

  • female patient looking at tablet with doctor
    3. Know Your Options
    Radical mastectomy used to be the standard of care. These days, it is rarely necessary unless cancer has spread to the chest muscle. Ask if you are a candidate for a partial mastectomy. This approach conserves as much breast tissue as possible. If your doctor recommends a full mastectomy, you still have options. Ask about nipple-sparing, simple, and modified radical mastectomy.

  • doctor-and-patient
    4. Get Specific With Your Doctor
    Bring a list of questions to your doctor appointment. Ask about the types of mastectomy available, possible complications, recovery time, and how to manage pain after the procedure. Find out if you will need breast reconstruction and whether that will happen at the same time or with a future surgery. Having realistic expectations will help you and your loved ones stick with your treatment plan. 

  • Blood Test
    5. Prepare for the Procedure
    Here are things you’ll need to do before surgery. 1) Provide your detailed medical history and a list of medications you take. 2) Get all preoperative testing that your doctor orders. 3) Take or stop medications exactly as directed.

  • Woman smiling in hospital bed
    6. Plan for Your Recovery
    Recovery time varies depending on the specific surgical approach, type of anesthesia, supplemental treatments, your general health, your age, and other factors. If you have breast reconstruction at the same time, your recovery may take longer. Full recovery times range from 4 to 8 weeks.

  • Hispanic family eating breakfast
    7. Make Appropriate Arrangements
    You won’t be able to drive immediately after mastectomy, so arrange for a ride to and from the hospital. Ask your doctor: what kind of restrictions you’ll have; what kind of assistance you will need at home; and when you can return to work and other activities. Arrange for child care, driving assistance, and time off work as needed.

  • Group of women wearing pink ribbons
    8. Start to Come to Terms
    Mastectomy can affect you emotionally as well as physically. Some women struggle with their identity as a woman after mastectomy. They may feel differently about their body or feel a sense of loss over their femininity or sexuality. It may take time to process your feelings about the effects of your mastectomy, but medical treatments and counseling can help. Talk with your doctor about the different types of support available to you.

8 Steps to a Successful Mastectomy

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 7
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.