Side Effects: Common side effects from surgery are pain, swelling, infection, and fatigue.
How You Can Help the Cancer Patient Before the Surgery
Linda B's editorial: We have found that it was very helpful to both the cancer patient and the family / loved ones to take part in a spiritual healing or cleansing ceremony prior to having the surgery. If such a ceremony requires several months preparation, ask the healer for a ceremony that can help prepare both the patient and the family for the surgery. Ideally, no more that two weeks passes between the time of the medical diagnosis and confirmation (i.e., biopsy) and the beginning of surgery. Once the patient and the family have had the healing or cleansing, the patient seems to approach the surgery in a much more positive perspective than prior to the ceremony. These patients also appear to be much stronger spiritually and more at ease or accepting of their current health situation. The ceremonies that require months of preparation should be postponed until the surgery and immediate follow-up care have been completed.
Questions to Ask the Doctor Before the Breast Operation
(Printed with permission, Morra and Potts, Choices, Avon Books, 1994, p. 330.)
How You Can Help the Cancer Patient During the Surgery
Types of Operations
Partial mastectomy also called breast-conserving surgery, lumpectomy, or wide excision The lump in your breast is taken out, along with some of the normal breast tissue around it, to get clear margins. This is followed by radiation therapy to the part of the breast that remains. Survival rates are the same as with the modified radical mastectomy when cancer is treated in its early stages.
Advantages: If you are large-breasted, most of your breast is preserved. You have a better appearance than with a modified radical mastectomy. There is little possibility of loss of muscle strength.
Disadvantages: If you have small or medium-size breasts, you will have a noticeable change in your breast shape. You must undergo radiation treatments. If lymph nodes are not taken out, cancer may spread undetected.
Lymph node dissection also called axillary lymph node dissection Lymph nodes are taken out in the hollow of your armpit. Usually done at the same time as breast operation.
Advantages: Doctor can check to see if there is cancer in nodes.
Disadvantages: You have a risk of developing lymphedema.
Total or simple mastectomy Entire breast is removed.
Advantages: Your chest muscles are not taken out and there is little loss of arm strength. Breast reconstruction is easier.
Disadvantages: The breast is removed. This operation is not a common one today.
Modified radical mastectomy Entire breast, lining over chest muscles and lymph nodes under arm taken out. Usually only the smaller of the two chest muscles taken out. Survival rates are the same as with the partial mastectomy plus radiation therapy when cancer is treated in its early stages.
Advantages: Your chest muscles are not taken out. You can have breast reconstruction and you can plan it before your operation.
Disadvantages: Your breast is removed. You have a risk of developing lymphedema.
(Printed with permission, Morra and Potts, Choices, Avon Books, 1994, p. 322.)
How You Can Help the Cancer Patient After the Surgery
(there are) 7 of my lymph nodes that were removed and I kept thinking had I not waited long maybe, . . . they wouldn't have done that. But it's, it's to late now to even think that. And I really get scared thinking what if I had waited much longer. It would have been passed the lymph nodes and some place else. It's really scary to even think that. Gloria Suazo (Taos Pueblo)
Linda B's Editorial. A "biopsy" and "lumpectomy" are not the same procedure. Many of our Indian patients have stated that they had a lumpectomy to identify the cancer, but these were typically "biopsies" to confirm the cancer diagnosis. A "lumpectomy" is a surgical procedure to remove the cancer cells and immediately surrounding tissue. A "lumpectomy" is sometimes called, "breast conserving" surgery.
I was very fortunate in many ways because I had a good friend of mine who just had gone through the same process ... so she gave me information and when I started comparing what the research reports were saying about mastectomy versus lumpectomy, I decided my chances were as good with lumpectomy as it is with mastectomy, so ... I asked to have the lumpectomy. I think I made an informed decision. Jennie Joe (Navajo)
But on the sixth day that I was in the hospital. I just got up, I felt good. I stripped my bed, I start putting all my stuff and getting all my flowers together. And the nurse comes in and says, "What are you doing?" I said "I'm ready to go home now", they said "you can't go home, you've got one more day, you need to stay one more day". And I'm like, oh man, so make my bed again, put everything back out. Trying to take my time, and figure out. . . . , so I go "Can I have popcorn or anything like this?". Then people started coming to see me, my relatives and I call them, the "prayer chain". All my aunts and uncles came and prayed and I felt real strong and positive and I was ready to go home. On the seventh day they said, well you better wait for the doctor to come around.
Well I have the doctor's beeper. I beeped him at 7:00 a.m. and I said, Dr. Little you need to release me now, I'm tired of stripping my bed and making it again. And he goes, "okay, we'll be by to see you and we'll let you go." They finally let me go home. My brother had put together a party with a picture of my son holding his head saying "Home Alone". There were balloons everywhere and I had my sister washing dishes, I have another one making beds. And I'm like, wow, this is cool, you know.
Cindy Thornton (Western Cherokee)
.And here when I got to the doctor he said, "Norma," he said, "we don't have to do a radical, we can do ... a "lumpectomy". And I said what does that mean? He said they'll take the cancerous, you know, cut most of the cancerous part out and then I'd ... either take radiation or chemo. And so I said, well you know that's fine, you know, .... I'd go for that .... cause half a breast is better than none at all.
Norma Staples (Mandan)