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Preparation For Breast Surgery

Medical Preparation For Breast Surgery

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Medical preparation for breast surgery usually includes the following:

  • A biopsy
    • A biopsy is a surgical procedure during which a sample of tissue is removed. The purpose is to get a diagnosis.
    • Biopsies are usually performed on an outpatient basis. 
    • For more information about biopsies, click here.
  • Imaging tests to determine the extent of your breast cancer
  • A meeting with the surgeon to discuss the procedure.
    • This is a good time to ask any remaining questions.
    • If you haven't before, ask about breast reconstruction:
      • Is it possible?
      • What would the results would be like?
      • Can it be done at the same time as the surgery?
    • Find out out what to expect immediately after surgery. For example:
      • If you will be put to sleep, immediately after surgery you can expect to be moved to a recovery room where you will wake up. 
      • Your vital signs will be checked in the recovery room. You will usually be required to stay in recovery until your body is functioning again (for instance, you are able to urinate).
      •  Will you have to stay in the hospital? If so, for how long? 
      • If you will be allowed to go home, what time should someone come to collect you? (It is usually required that a patient is not allowed to leave alone after being given anesthesia.)
    • Ask about the anesthesiologist - the person who will be in charge of anesthesia during the surgery. You can ask about the anesthesiologist's credentials and experience. Particularly ask how often the surgeon and anesthesiologist have worked together. It is generally accepted that the more often they work together, the better.
    • Survivorship A to Z provides a tool we call a Prioritizer for saving your questions as you think of them. When you go to the doctor, you can push a button and change the order of the questions to your priority so you can make sure that the most important questions will be covered. You can then print out the document and take it with you to the appointment.
  • A review of all aspects of your situation that could affect the surgery. For instance:
    • The surgeon will review all the drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, herbs and supplements you are taking or have taken in the recent past.Your doctor will advise you to stop taking any medications that could interfere with your surgery. If those medications were prescribed other than for cancer, check with the doctor who prescribed them before discontinuing their use. If a continuation of medication of some kind is advisable, arrange an appointment between the doctors to arrive at an agreed recommendation. (Survivorship A to Z provides a tool for you to keep track of your medications etc.)
    • Pacemakers and defibrillators. If you have either, the surgeon will need to know at least the make and model number. The surgeon may also ask for the i.d. information for your particular device.
    • Allergies you know about.
  • A request that you sign a Consent Form
    • The Consent Form basically states that you are aware of the nature of the procedure and the risks involved.
    • As you will see in the Survivorship A to Z document about Medical Consent Forms, it is advisable that you get the form well before the procedure is scheduled. This gives you time to review it and make any necessary changes. Yes, you can change the form even if it is printed. For example, if the form says it is okay for the surgeon's associate to do the operation, you can change it to only authorize the surgeon to do the operation.
    • Don't be surprised if the form asks for your consent for researchers to use any tissue or blood that is not needed for diagnostic purposes. The purpose of this provision is to help move medical science forward rather than an immediate, direct benefit to you.
  • A discussion about whether you will need a blood transfusion during the operation. 
    • If the doctor doesn't bring up the subject, ask whether any blood may be needed. If it is needed, you can bank your own blood ahead of time to be used if needed during the operation. As the American Cancer Society states: "You might feel more secure knowing that if a transfusion is needed, you will receive your own blood. If you do not receive your own blood, it is important to know that in the United States, blood transfusion from another person is nearly as safe as receiving your own blood."
  • A discussion of what you can and cannot do immediately prior to surgery. 
    • For example, if you will be put to sleep for the operation, you may be asked to eat lightly the day before the surgery. There will be a period of time before the operation when it is suggested that you do not eat or drink anything.
    • There are certain vitamins and medications the doctor may not want you to take for a period prior to surgery.
  • A meeting with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, the health professional who will be giving you the anesthesia during your surgery. 
    • The type of anesthesia which will be used in the surgery depends primarily on the kind of surgery being done and your medical history. 
    • This meeting usually occurs just before the surgery. 

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