What is a Radical Mastectomy?
A radical mastectomy is the removal of the breast and surrounding tissue. In most cases, mastectomy is required in order to remove cancerous tissue from the body. The extent of tissue removed is determined by the amount of cancer present in your body.
Lymph nodes are small junctions that join the vessels that make up the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system circulates a bodily fluid called lymph in the same way that the circulatory system carries blood.
Your doctor has recommended that you undergo a radical mastectomy because cancer in your breast may have begun to move into the lymph nodes under your arm as well as into your chest muscle.
This procedure may result in the loss of some muscle strength in the arm on the affected side of the body and will permanently change the outward shape and appearance of your chest. So make sure that you ask your doctor to carefully explain the reasons behind this recommendation.
Two incisions will be made beginning at the middle of the chest one along the top and one along the bottom of the breast – coming together just under the arm.
The skin is then lifted up and away, revealing the tissue underneath.
Beginning at the clavicle – or collar bone – the surgeon then begins to carefully cut the breast tissue away from the muscles that lie just beneath.
When the breast has been completely freed, it is lifted away, exposing the top layer of muscle, called the pectoralis major. Your doctor will remove this muscle.
Below the pectoralis major lies, another chest muscle called the pectoralis minor. This muscle will also be removed, fully exposing the fatty tissues that lie surround it.
Within this fat deposit lie lymph nodes lymph vessels, blood vessels, and nerves.
Using great care not to damage the large thoracic nerve, your doctor will remove the lymph nodes and surrounding fat.
Blood vessels will be tied off and your doctor will thoroughly examine the surrounding tissues for any other signs of disease.
When the surgical team is satisfied that they have done all that they can to remove the cancer, they will release the muscles and other tissue.
One or more drainage tubes will be temporarily inserted at the site while the healing process begins.
They will then close the incision. Finally, a sterile bandage is applied.