Common Questions About Breast Surgery
Q. Is breast surgery dangerous?
A. Doctors have been performing mastectomies for many years and are continuing to improve their techniques. There are risks associated with any kind of surgery, however. Risk depends on a lot of things, including your age, your medical history, your response to anesthesia, and your general health. After considering these factors, your doctor will recommend the type of surgery that will offer you the most benefit with the least amount of risk.
Q. How frequently should I plan to see a doctor after a mastectomy?
A. Your surgeon will tell you when to schedule your first postoperative exam. The two of you will then decide whether you should continue to make regular visits to the surgeon, or to a medical oncologist, an internist, a gynecologist, or a family practitioner. Most doctors believe that women treated for breast cancer should have professional exams every 3 to 6 months for the first 3 years after surgery. More information on followup exams, possible signs of recurrence, and taking care of yourself can be found in After Breast Cancer: A Guide to Followup Care, another booklet available from the National Cancer Institute.
Q. What is chemotherapy and when is it used?
A. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. (Remember, a mastectomy treats only the cancer in the breast.) Anticancer drugs are used to reach areas of the body where cancer cells may be hiding, and to destroy them before they multiply and hurt the normal cells and organs. More information on this supplementary treatment can be found in Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Treatment and Adjuvant Therapy: Facts for Women With Breast Cancer, both of which are available from the National Cancer Institute.