I am due to have a lumpectomy in the next few days. How long will the operation last?
Most breast operations take less than an hour to perform, even mastectomies. You will therefore be under the anesthetic for only a short period of time, and will be away from the ward for at most a few hours while you recover from your operation.
How long will I have to be in hospital following my mastectomy?
The length of time spent in hospital varies depending, for example, on each hospital’s normal practice and each woman’s general state of health. It may only be 3 or 4 days before you are able to go home – at most probably about 8 to 10. You will have to have recovered fully from the anesthetic, and nursing staff and doctors will have to be sure you will be able to manage at home before they will agree to your leaving hospital. Your breast care nurse or consultant should be able to give you some idea of how long you are likely to have to remain.
I am very keen on gardening and want to know if I will be able to move my arm following my mastectomy or whether I will always have restricted arm movement?
Although arm movement may be restricted following a radical mastectomy, this operation is now rarely performed, and you should be able to start to move your arm more easily within a few days. You will probably be advised about some gentle shoulder exercises to do after your operation, and if you do these regularly, it will not be long before you can move your arm normally without any discomfort or stiffness. You will eventually be able to do the gardening and all your other activities as normal. The sooner you start the shoulder exercises the better, but do not do so until medical staff say it is all right. Finger exercises can be done immediately after your operation.
The consultant has said that I should consider whether I would prefer to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy to remove a cancer from my breast. I do not want to make this decision myself as I do not know enough about it, but I do feel that I should take the responsibility for choosing. What can I do?
Although most doctors now feel that patients should be able to have a part in decision making, and some people prefer to make their own choices, it is perfectly acceptable to leave the final decision to your consultant. If you want more information or a second opinion because you cannot decide what to do, then do ask for it. If you have a breast care nurse, she should be able to provide you with the information you require, or tell you how to go about making an appointment with another consultant. Although a second opinion is likely to be the same as the one you have already obtained, this in itself may put your mind at rest.
Most consultants will be quite prepared to do what they think best if you prefer not to have to make the decision yourself.
How long will I have to wait for the results of some tests to see if a lump 1 have in my breast is cancer?
In theory, nobody should have to wait for results of this kind for longer than 2 weeks. It is well understood that this is a very anxious time for the woman concerned and her family and every effort will be made to give you this information as soon as possible. The results of a biopsy should be returned from the hospital laboratory within 3 to 4 days at most, but there may be a delay before you receive them if the clinic is fully booked and an appointment cannot be found for you. If this is the case, you can ring the consultant to see if it is possible to be given the results over the telephone. However, many consultants are reluctant to do this as they feel that women require the chance to discuss things properly, and to ask questions at this time. If you have a breast care nurse, she may be able to obtain the results from your consultant and give them to you at her clinic or during a visit to your home. Another alternative is to ask if your GP can be given the results of your tests and then tell you about them at a visit to the surgery. It is always worth trying one of these options rather than having to wait anxiously for this news.