What is a bilateral mastectomy?
Cancer is the scourge of the modern age. Thankfully we now have many different treatments, but in some cases the only solution is surgery. This can often be the case with breast cancer.
So what is a bilateral mastectomy? In basic terms it is where a surgeon removes all or most of a woman’s breast tissue in an effort to treat existing cancer or where a woman is thought to be at high risk, to prevent cancer from occurring. In effect, both breasts are removed.
This is a very serious operation and can have both physical and psychological impacts on the patient. Breast reconstruction is an option for many patients after the operation, but the degree of reconstruction involved can be dependent on whether or not the surgeon has been able to save the patients nipples. Normal recovery time after a bilateral or double mastectomy is 4-6 weeks, but the psychological and emotional impact can take far longer to recover from, especially in cases where the surgery is done as a preventative measure as opposed to treatment for an existing cancer.
A patient who undergoes a bilateral mastectomy and who are already suffering from cancer may on certain occasions also require chemotherapy, especially if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. This may take place before or after the surgery depending on circumstances such as the age and general health of the patient. However, this would not normally be required in the case of preventative surgery.
Rest and pain killers are likely to be required after the surgery. In addition, the surgeon may recommend certain exercises such as arm exercises to build up strength and muscle, especially in the arms. Phantom breast pain after the surgery is also not uncommon. Recovery will take time, and the patient will require to follow up checks and potentially counseling after the operation.