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What Happens Before and During Surgery for Breast Cancer

You may have more than one surgeon depending upon the procedures you’re having. You’ll meet before surgery to discuss your procedures. At this time, you can talk about any questions or concerns you may have. You may also want to review the risks and possible side effects of surgery. Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to your normal activities and whether the surgery will leave scars. If you haven’t scheduled reconstructive surgery, ask about your options.

Preparing for Surgery

Before surgery, the surgeon will ask about any drugs you’re taking and go over your medical records. This helps ensure your safety during surgery. After you have gone over all the details with the surgeon, you will sign a consent form that says that the doctor can do the surgery.

Before surgery, your doctor may also suggest that you have a bone scan, especially if you have pain in your bones. That’s because breast cancer can spread to your bones. When cancer spreads like this, it’s called bone metastasis. A bone scan is a nuclear medicine test that can find signs of cancer in your bones. These are not new cancers, but breast cancer that has spread.

Depending on the type of surgery planned, you may also donate blood beforehand. This may be done if the doctors think you might need a transfusion. 

What Happens During Breast Surgery

During the surgery, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will give you a drug that will make you sleep during the surgery so that you won’t feel pain. Before surgery, you’ll meet with the anesthesia department to learn details about the kind of anesthesia you’ll have and how it will make you feel.

What happens during surgery depends on the type you are having. During the procedure, your surgeon may place a drain in your wound to help collect fluid as you heal. You will get directions for emptying the container that collects the fluid and for how to care for your wound.

Most doctors will want you to start moving and using your arm shortly after surgery so that it doesn't get stiff and swollen. You will be able to take pain medicine if you need it. 

Any remaining breast tissue is still at risk of developing cancer. So no matter what type of surgery you’ve had, you will still need to be regularly screened for cancer.