Having a lump removed from my breast
March 16, 2011 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I am having a (hopefully benign) lump removed from my breast surgically. What should I expect?

I'm sort of freaking out right now. I know this is superficial but I am worried about how it will look after. This was kinda sprung on me today (I figured, if they would do anything, it would be a biopsy... not surgery right away). It's probably not cancer but my surgeon is worried about it because it has been growing quickly and now has rougher edges than before. So there is a slight chance it is malignant, and I am freaking 20 years old. Ughughughughugh.

I don't know; I just feel really anxious about this. What will recovery be like? I'm a student.. how will this affect my studies? What about work? Should I take off a week of work or something?

And I've never been under general anesthesia. I recently read a question about some guy who thought he woke up during it... That sounds frightening. And I know with general anesthesia there is a chance something will go terribly wrong.

Ahhhhhh! Someone please assure me I will be okay. And not disfigured.
posted by tweedle to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had this done at age 24. No sweat. I went in early Friday morning, they knocked me out, removed the lump, sent me back home with my responsible adult & many bags of frozen peas. I hung out at home that day & night, with frozen peas on the surgery site (on & off), but went to the mall the day after. I was back at work on Monday, which apparently was not what my surgeon wanted to hear.
posted by kellyblah at 2:23 PM on March 16, 2011

I had 3 of these (fibroidadenomas) in my 20s. I was as freaked out as you are and I'm here to tell you it'll be ok.
Lessons learned:
-I was super freaked out too, but the chances of this being cancer are small. The doctor is concerned because the tumors will just keep growing w/out surgery and they grow fast. It's super scary, but not life threatening. This is definitely a first world kind of illness and surgery.
-don't rush back to work (sorry kellyblah!) I had bad nausea and pain for the first few days after surgery, and I was bound up (a gauze bandage wrapped around my chest) for at least a week or 10 days to keep the swelling down. I think I was out of work for a week for each of the 2 surgeries. If I could do it again, I would take more time off- that's what sick days are for. The anesthesia can give you funky side effects for days, so go easy on yourself.
-Make sure you have all your favorite sickie and comfort foods on hand (in my case, this was soup and popsicles and frozen pizza for when the anesthesia wore off).
-I was really glad to have my mom around. My boyfriend was a very caring dude, but serious wound care + nighttime vomiting + blitzed out girlfriend was a lot for him to handle as a 24 y.o. I needed my mom to be in charge of pain med allocation and general watching and caretaking because he really didn't know how to be a caretaker in that situation.
-ask your doctor if he can do the incision at the line of the areola. My surgeon (a woman) suggested this, and the scars are barely noticeable because of their location. This wasn't that big of a deal to me at the time, but now, at 30, looking at my body over time, I'm really glad to not have massive scars-- it makes me *feel* less ill and wounded.
-when I was scared after the surgery or had questions, I was really reluctant to call the doctor because she seemed really busy and I didn't want to bother her, plus she had lots of actual breast cancer patients to deal with. Don't be me! It's his or her job to manage aftercare, and there are lots of potential post surgery complications- don't hesitate to reach out if you're concerned. It's for your health.

Go easy on yourself, take as much time as you'll need, and know you'll come out the other end with a good story of your bad-ass-ness to tell.
posted by paddingtonb at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had this done at 18, under local anesthesia. It turned out to be a benign fibro-adenine. Surgery was fine, if stressful and unpleasant (feeling them dug around in there was not my definition of a good time). The surgeon decided that, in order to avoid visibly scarring my breast, he would go at the lump - which was up high, closer to my clavicle - from my nipple. He cut around my nipple, dug it out from there, then stitched the nipple back, so the scar would be masked by my areola. Whole thing took about half an hour.

I had a bruise from under my breast to my shoulder for 3 months. The stitches itched like crazy. I had to sleep sitting up for about a week, until the tissue stopped being so tender. They took the stitches out about a week and a half later.

Seven years later, I have a scar which is tender to the touch, more thorough breast exams every year, though there is no real higher risk from benign lumps, and the memory of how much of a relief it was to have the thing out rather than worry about it.

I had a bruise on my
posted by lydhre at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2011

I've never had a lump removed, but I've been under general anaesthetic a few times and I know heaps of people who also have, including both my kids. I've never known anyone to 'wake up' during the procedure. The chances of something going wrong are very very tiny. Being a non-smoker and a healthy weight and following the surgeons directions (fasting, etc) makes those chances even smaller.

Here in Australia, you are usually given a sedative beforehand to minimise stress before being put under. (And for what it's worth, I actually enjoy the brief slipping-out-of-consciousness feeling as the general takes hold. I might be weird, YMMV.) The worst side-effect of me having a general is that my hair goes lank and limp for a few days afterwards.

I'd bet my last dollar that nothing will go wrong with your anaesthesia.

Fingers crossed that it is indeed benign. (And good on you for getting it checked out instead of ignoring it.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:46 PM on March 16, 2011

I've gone through this surgery and I have one piece of advice I wish someone had shared with me:

After your surgery, especially after the stitches are removed, wear a really supportive bra for way longer than you think you need to.

I didn't. After my stitches were taken out I switched from a super-supportive sports bra to my normal light-support bra & the weight of my breast slowly opened the wound up again, from the inside out. There was no bleeding. I just woke up one morning and there was a pencil eraser sized hole in the middle of the scar. My doctor fixed it up, but my scar is bigger than it otherwise would have been because of this.

That said, no one has ever commented on my scar. It faded out pretty quick.
posted by burntflowers at 4:19 PM on March 16, 2011

I had my surgical biopsy done under a sort of twilight local a couple years ago (I was 42)-- I chose this over general anesthesia because the surgeon promised to show me the lump when he removed it. (He did, and it was awesome.) The procedure was painless.

My husband drove me home a couple hours later and reports I was WAY out of it, but I still marched up our two flights of stairs like a pro. I was loopy and mostly asleep for the rest of the day. The next day there was a little soreness but I was basically myself. The scar, near my armpit, is 2 inches long and is fading nicely. All in all, the nervousness ahead of time was much worse than the procedure.
posted by Failure31 at 4:55 PM on March 16, 2011

Was there any discussion of doing a needle aspiration biopsy? The results are supposedly as accurate, no scarring, no knock-out, in and out with little pain, recovery time is zero.

There's been a lot of news lately about how the lumpectomy is a over-used procedure, since it's what most surgeons are familiar with.

NPR did a segment on needle biopsies.

I had one of these done for a tumor in my neck (benign) and while not the most pleasant of experiences I would allow it again.

I am by no means trying to dissuade you from getting proper care, so don't take this as me advocating a position. I just want to make sure you're making an informed decision.

I was also deathly afraid of the anesthesia. This question helped with that.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:08 PM on March 16, 2011

I had one removed a few years ago (also in my 20s). I got mine done on a Friday and went back to work after the weekend, and was still a little groggy for a day or two. My boss was concerned on my first day back that I seemed really out of it and gloomy, but then I was back to my normal self by the next day, mood-wise.

You do have to be careful, and definitely get a very comfy and supportive sports bra that you don't have to pull over your head. The recovery will hurt more than you expect it to, and suddenly you will have a lot more empathy for anyone who goes through any sort of surgery. If your work is physically intensive, you may need additional time off. I was able to work, although normal motion was painful for a while, the area hurting when walking, etc. Sleeping positions also had to be adjusted for a while. I did not have a bad reaction to the pain medication, but I don't think I took much of it.

I loved the anesthesia, personally. It was my first time being knocked out, and I was terrified for every single reason, but then they administered it, and all of a sudden I was out and then I woke up when it was done and felt AWESOME. I have never had such delicious graham crackers and apple juice in my entire life. Later in the day, once the happy-time meds wore off, I was very moody and easily upset and didn't want to be left alone. The real soreness didn't hit until the next day.

As for looks, yeah, there's a scar there, but... I haven't gotten any complaints.
posted by wondermouse at 7:28 PM on March 16, 2011

I had this done in my 20s also. The incision was quite small; there is a small scar and a small dent there now, but I am certain no one but me notices, and the scar has faded over time. I was up and moving the next day just fine. The anesthesia is certainly a strange feeling, but was not bad in anyway.

They gave me a LOT of pain medicine. I took some right away, because I thought it was going to hurt a lot. The pain meds made me puke. Also, I don't think I really needed anything stronger than some tylenol. Mostly my incision was itchy, not painful.

Agree with the above about being glad my parents were around.

Hang in there.... I understand how freaky it is!
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:14 AM on March 17, 2011

Had a tumor removed about a 9 months ago under twilight anesthesia.

1) twilight is lovely if you're curious about what's going on. Apparently, I was very chatty in the OR.

2) the scar is on my areola and doesn't show at all.

3) the tumor was benign, which it is most of the time, but it's a really good idea to have it out and checked because if it's not, and you caught it early, the treatment is easier, faster and less traumatic, depending on the type of cancer.

4) Responsible adult (husband) took me home and babied me for a day or two, even though I didn't really need more than a couple of hours. Healed up beautifully and I just go in once a year to have everything checked out.

All the best to you.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:13 AM on March 17, 2011

Many women have this very situation, the vast majority are fine, worrying won’t help anything, it will only bring problems in your life!
posted by eraneo at 9:25 PM on March 20, 2011

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