In its simplest form, breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the tissues of the breast. These malignant cells, which can spread from their origin throughout the entire body, grow and multiply in a disorderly fashion, leading to the growth of tumors. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer women face, affecting one out of every eight women in their lifetime, and while it affects both men and women, it is far more common in women. It is estimated that nearly 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 40,000 of those diagnosed lose their life to the disease annually; on average, men are diagnosed with breast cancer at one-tenth that rate.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and you and your treatment team have elected to move forward with surgery, chances are you have a lot of questions about what to expect and how to best prepare for your procedure. Like anything in life, the more prepared you are for your breast cancer treatment regimen, the better your chances are of having optimal outcomes at the end of the process. To that end, we have compiled a list of six things that you should do in preparation for your breast cancer surgery.
- Remain Calm – Anxiety in the run-up to surgery is not only emotionally unpleasant, it can actually have a quantifiable negative impact on recovery and outcomes. According to the AORN Journal, patients who experience greater anxiety, fear and depression before surgery experience increased post-procedure pain, greater risk of infection, and longer recovery times following surgery. Therefore, it is very important that you do your best to remain clam before your procedure. Participating in activities that you enjoy, exercising as you are able and eating a well-balanced diet, and leaning on your social network for support can all help decrease stress and optimize your body for healing before your surgery.
- Consider a Second Opinion – Picking a treatment team is one of the most important decisions a breast cancer patient will make during their fight against the disease. It is very important that you have a good relationship with your surgeon and you have a high level of trust and faith in their ability to help you get better. They will, after all, be playing one of the most crucial roles in your recovery process. Even if you like your current surgeon, pursuing a second opinion can help you better understand your disease and treatment options, making you a more informed patient.
- Develop a Recovery Plan – Regardless of your personal circumstances, recovering from breast cancer surgery can be a very intense process. Recovery can be even more complicated if you have serious personal or professional demands on your time and attention. In order to maximize your recovery, it is very important that you have a plan in place to cover all of your obligations before your procedure. The last thing you want to do is spend the days following surgery trying to scramble to coordinate childcare or work coverage; this is a time for healing and recovery, so anything you can do to limit stress and demands on your time during the recovery period will go a long way.
- Fully Understand your Surgeon’s Instructions – Generally speaking, there are some universal rules when preparing to go in for a surgical procedure. Ensure any and all medications you take regularly are known to and approved by your surgical team, do not eat or drink in the hours before your surgery, remove all jewelry and piercings, and ensure you have someone to drive you home if you are to be released the same day. However, many surgeons have their own additional requests that will be very important for you to understand and follow, so make sure you have a full understanding of what your physician expects of you before your surgery.
- Ask About Alternative Treatments – The treatment and prevention of breast cancer is one of the most well-funded research topics in the world. As such, there are exciting developments happening all the time that could be applicable to your case. Things like minimally-invasive procedures to remove lumps, hormone therapy, and gene editing have been developed to help treat this disease and could be used in your treatment plan. Therefore, you should ask your physician if you are eligible for any of these nascent treatment modalities before undergoing surgery.
- Understand Reconstruction – Whether you are having a mastectomy or lumpectomy, there is a good chance you will be a candidate for reconstructive surgery following your procedure. While some people elect to wear their scars as a badge of honor, others desire the look and feel of their pre-surgery body and so choose to pursue reconstruction. Therefore, now is the time to begin thinking about your options, preferences, and how you want to proceed following your surgery. While you do not have to make a decision before your procedure, it is best to start thinking about your options now, when you can approach the question with something closer to an unbiased thought process.