While the breast cancer patient lies on the surgical table, and while that surgery patient is thus under the influence of the anesthesia, the patient can not talk with the breast cancer surgeon. That is why the breast cancer patient should prepare a list of questions for the surgeon. Then the patient should plan to ask those questions before or after the surgery.
Before the surgery, the breast cancer surgeon typically gets many questions about the planned procedure. The breast cancer patient often wants reassurance that the procedure will not involve any unnecessary risk. The breast cancer surgeon must then tactfully explain the complications that could occur during the surgery.
The term "risk free" can not be applied to any type of surgery. Breast cancer surgery is no different. Both a lumpectomy and a mastectomy can lead to certain complications. For example, the patient could suffer from an infection of the surgical wound, bleeding from the surgical wound, seroma (collection of fluid) near the surgical wound or pain or numbness in the area of the surgical wound.
In addition to discussing the above risks, the breast cancer surgeon often needs to talk with the patient about breast reconstruction. The surgery for breast reconstruction might be performed at the same time as the removal of the cancerous breast tissue. The breast cancer surgeon must help the patient to assess her feelings about her appearance, and to determine her readiness to accept added surgery. Careful guidance from the surgeon should help the patient to decide whether or not to get breast reconstruction.
The surgeon's guidance should indicate that the patient might qualify for more than one type of breast reconstruction. There are several types of reconstruction surgery. Breast cancer patients recover better when they understand what to expect from each type of reconstruction surgery.
The breast cancer surgeon might tell the patient that he hopes to use a breast implant. The implant, normally placed under the chest muscle, can be inserted through a small incision. The use of an implant does require later surgery, because the breast formed by an implant does not have a nipple or an areola.
After the surgery, the patient should expect to see the breast cancer surgeon at least once in the hospital and once in the doctor's office. The surgeon will come to inspect the dressing on the wound. The patient needs to ask the surgeon about the proper care for the incision site. For example, the patient often wants to know if she can bathe while the incision remains covered.
If there are stitches at the incision site, then the patient might want to ask how those stitches will be removed. Some types of stitches dissolve on their own, while others must be taken-out during an office visit, a follow-up to the surgery. A follow-up visit is also a good time to get further instructions on the taking of pain medication. A prescription for such medication is usually given before the patient leaves for home.