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What can I expect when I undergo breast cancer surgery?

Before undergoing breast cancer surgery, expect to have a biopsy for the right diagnosis, and then discuss the right treatment plans with your doctor.

Depending on the likely extent of your surgery, you may be offered the choice of an outpatient procedure (where you go home the same day) or you may be admitted to the hospital.

General anesthesia is usually given whenever the surgery involves a mastectomy or an axillary node dissection, and is most often used during breast-conserving surgery as well. You will have an IV (intravenous) line put in (usually in a vein in your arm), which the medical team will use to give medicines that may be needed during the surgery. Usually you will be hooked up to an electrocardiogram (EKG) machine and have a blood pressure cuff on your arm, so your heart rhythm and blood pressure can be checked during the surgery.

The length of the operation depends on the type of surgery being done. For example, a mastectomy with axillary lymph node dissection will usually take from two to three hours. After your surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room, where you will stay until you are awake and your condition and vital signs (blood pressure, pulse and breathing) are stable.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.