Being diagnosed with breast cancer is a devastating prospect for any woman and going under the knife to successfully beat the disease can be equally terrifying. Breast cancer surgery which is a necessary step in removing all the cancerous cells can take a toll on a woman’s physical and emotional state of well-being. Therefore, it is important to take proper steps to keep the mind and body ready for the procedure so that it can help with pre- and post-operation issues.
Breast cancer and the role of surgery
A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells in the body. A tumour which is a result of the uncontrolled growth of cells can either be benign, which is not dangerous to health or malignant, which is potentially dangerous. Cells from a malignant tumour can eventually spread to the rest of the body through the blood or the lymph system. Therefore, breast cancer refers to a malignant tumour formed out of the cells in the breast. They typically begin in the cells of the lobules that produce milk or the ducts through which the milk drains to the nipple. It can also begin in the fatty and connective tissues of the breast but are less commonly seen.
Theinclude any unusual changes to the breasts in the form of hard irregularly-shaped lumps, swelling of part or the entire breast, skin irritation or dimpling, the nipple turning inward or nipple pain, nipple discharge that is not breast milk, a lump in the underarm area, etc. Although these could be symptoms of something less serious, a mammogram and doctor checkup can lead to further testing for confirmation.
Thefalls under two main types.
- Breast conserving surgery: Here only a part of the breast that contains cancer is removed. The mass removed depends on the size and location of the tumour. It incorporates procedures such as lumpectomy, quadrantectomy and partial mastectomy with the goal of surgery being only to remove the cancer and some of the surrounding tissue.
- Mastectomy: It is a procedure in which the entire breast is removed along with some of the surrounding tissues. A double mastectomy is sometimes required where both the breasts are removed.
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After the surgery
When a surgical procedure causes loss of a part of the body and change in appearance, the experience can be unnerving, especially when women have to deal with physical struggles of recovery combined with emotional pain of having to wake up every day without a breast or both breasts. Finding a balance mentally, physically and spiritually can go a long way in easing the recovery process. Some of the ways to prepare yourself for and bounce back after the procedure include:
- Building a strong support system comprising of trusted friends and loving family members who care deeply about you
- Following a healthy diet and exercise regimen to recover from the surgery and maintain a general state of good health
- Connecting with others in support groups who have made it through the ordeal and those who are undergoing treatment to help overcome fears
- Getting involved in breast cancer awareness programmes to help others affected by it get a broader perspective of the issue
In order to restore the breast’s normal appearance, women can consider opting for breast reconstruction surgeries that can be chosen along with breast cancer. Among the several types of reconstructive surgeries available, it is a good idea to discuss the viable options with the breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy.