In a modified radical mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, including the skin, areola and nipple, as well as most of the lymph nodes in the armpit area.
Modified radical mastectomy is usually recommended if the tumor is large and cancer has already spread to the lymph nodes.
A modified radical mastectomy without reconstruction takes two to four hours and usually involves a one-night hospital stay. A single incision across half the chest usually allows the surgeon to remove the breast and the lymph nodes.
After modified radical mastectomy, small tubes are placed in the breast area to draw off fluid. The ends of these drains are attached to a pocket-sized suction device. Patients are instructed in the care and monitoring of the drainage until the drains are removed, a week or more after surgery.
Most women do not experience excessive pain following a modified radical mastectomy. Patients often use pain medication for one to two weeks following surgery and then use over-the-counter pain relievers if needed.
Numbness may occur in the upper arm as a result of the loss of small nerves where lymph nodes are removed. Some of the numbness may fade over time.
Cancer surgery is emotionally draining and physically taxing. Patients are advised to expect fatigue and plan a light schedule for the first two weeks following modified radical mastectomy.