Breast cancer is still the number one disease that affects women in the Philippines all around the world. The Philippines has the highest incidence of breast cancer, as 3 in 100 women will get breast cancer before age 75 and one out of 100 will die before reaching 75, according to an official from the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology. However, thanks to the country’s continuously developing medical industry, there are now many treatments available for breast cancer, one of which is the surgical procedure known as Mastectomy.
What is Mastectomy Philippines?
Mastectomy is the removal of breast tissue and or surrounding lymph nodes to treat or prevent breast cancer. This procedure is done if one has breast cancer, or has a high probability of developing it. Though the word mastectomy pertains primarily to the breasts, there are also other procedures involved like removal of lymph nodes or the chest muscle beneath the breast, depending on the type and progression of the cancer. Because of the advancements in technology, there are now several options of mastectomy available, depending on the need of the patient.
Types of Mastectomy
Simple or Total Mastectomy
- This type of mastectomy focuses on removing the breast tissue, and is done by removing the entire breast.
- With this procedure, no muscles will be removed from beneath the breast.
- Axillary lymph node dissection, or the removal of lymph nodes in the underarm area will not be performed by the surgeon, however, there may be times when lymph nodes are removed, when they so happen to be located within the breast tissue.
- Simple mastectomy is commonly done for people with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in multiple or large areas.
- This procedure can also be done for women with a high probability of developing breast cancer. This is called prophylactic mastectomy.
Modified Radical Mastectomy
- Level 1 and 2 of the underarm lymph nodes are removed, aka axillary lymph node dissection.
- The entire breast is removed.
- No muscles will be removed from beneath the breast.
- Modified radical mastectomy is done commonly for people with invasive types of breast cancer, for the lymph nodes to be examined, to see if the cancer cells have spread outside the breast area.
- Radical Mastectomy is known to be the most extensive type of mastectomy.
- The surgeon removes the entire breast along with all the breast tissue, as well as the underarm lymph nodes levels 1, 2 and 3.
- Unlike the two previous mastectomy procedures, radical mastectomy involves the removal of the chest wall muscles beneath the breasts.
- Radical mastectomy is performed once the cancer spreads to the chest muscles beneath the breasts.
- Partial mastectomy involves the removal of breast tissue affected by cancer, as well as some of the surrounding normal tissue. The difference between partial mastectomy and lumpectomy is that partial mastectomy involves removing more breast tissue, as lumpectomy focuses mostly on the area affected by cancer.
- With nipple-sparing mastectomy, all breast tissue is removed, except for the nipples.
● Mastectomy normally takes around 2 to 3 hours, without breast reconstruction.
● Mastectomy is typically an outpatient procedure, meaning patients can go home on the same day. However, if both breasts are to be removed, or if you opt to have reconstruction done as well, the hospital may require you to stay a few days to recover, before they let you go home.
● If you will be undergoing sentinel node biopsy to see if the cancer has spread outside the breasts, then the doctor will inject a radioactive tracer and blue dye around or on the skin above the tumor, so the doctor will be able to identify and remove them during the surgery.
● Mastectomy typically involves the use of general anesthesia, which means you’ll be asleep during the operation.
● The breast tissue and lymph nodes removed will be sent to the laboratory for analysis.
● If you opt to undergo breast reconstruction during the same time as your mastectomy, the plastic surgeon and the breast surgeon will coordinate during your operation.
● You can also opt to use temporary tissue expanders, in case you wish to have reconstruction at a different time or if you still need to undergo radiation therapy after surgery. You will need to consult your oncologist as there will be things you need to consider about breast reconstruction and radiation therapy.
● Once the surgery is complete, the incision will be stitched, which will dissolve in the future, or maybe removed once the area heals. Two small plastic tubes may also be placed in the area to help drain fluid that accumulates after surgery. The fluid will travel through the tubes to a small drainage bag attached at the end.
● After the surgery, the patient will be taken to the recovery room to monitor the breathing as well as the blood pressure.
● Expect to feel a bit of pain, numbness or a pinching sensation around the underarm.
● The doctor or the hospital staff will give instructions on how to properly care for yourself once you get home, including the activity restrictions, recognizing signs of infection and taking care of the incision.
● The patient will be prescribed pain medication, and or antibiotics. The health care providers at the hospital may also brief you about when you can start wearing a bra or breast prosthesis.
● After a week or two of the mastectomy, you may get the pathology report, that your doctor will explain to you.
Do note that you may still need to see different specialists after the surgery, like a radiation oncologist if you need radiation treatments, a medical oncologist for further treatment of the operation, a plastic surgeon if you’d like to pursue breast reconstruction, and a counselor or support group that will help you come with the changes and challenges that breast cancer brings.