Gransnet forums


I have to have a mastectomy……

(73 Posts)
Mcm5 Mon 04-Sep-23 13:11:05

I have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and have now just learned that I have to have a mastectomy (one breast).
I am finding this very difficult to process at the moment and I wonder how other Gransnetters have dealt with this….
I am 78 years old and I don’t relish the idea of a 6-8 hour operation for reconstruction -
and having somewhat sagging breasts now, I don’t think my remaining one will be “matched” too well!
I think I prefer the thought of a prosthetic but it is such early days and my head is all over the place.
I would really appreciate hearing others thoughts and experiences.

vintage1950 Mon 04-Sep-23 19:22:54

flowers for mcm5.

Whiff Mon 04-Sep-23 19:43:02

Mcm it was hematoma and the cream is called Aqueous.

Whiff Mon 04-Sep-23 19:58:06

Mcm wrote a long post about my mom and it disappeared. So just bare facts this time mom had breast cancer aged 73. Mastectomy and lymph nodes removed. No reconstruction. False boob to heavy so she rolled up dad's socks to fill her bra cup. She had big boobs. On Tamoxifen for 5 years.

When she was 86 her left nipple bleed. Grade 3 cancer this time mastectomy and lymph nodes removed. Had a hematoma but it was removed via needle mom never felt a thing. She had 15 radiotherapy treatments. She healed well each time. Couldn't face chemo as she saw what it did to my husband.

She saw both my children and my brother get married. And held her first great grandson. She was 90 when she died but she had dementia and cancer . I always believe it was the dementia that ended her life.

Only use Simple face wash, shampoo and conditioner,shower gel . Very mild stick deo. And once healed use aqueous cream to keep your skin in could condition especially if you have radiotherapy.

After my husband died in 2004 I decided if I ever had breast cance it would be lymph nodes removed and mastectomy no messing about.

I am 65 now and if I got it one of my crafty friends would knitted a boob for me . And yes there are knitting patterns for boobs including nipple.

Hope this makes sense

crazyH Mon 04-Sep-23 19:58:39

mcm5 - sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I can only tell you what a young friend (53 years old) of mine decided to do. She was diagnosed with BC in one breast, but due to a family history of this disease, she decided to have both breasts removed and have double reconstruction, all at the same time .
I hope you make the decision that’s right for you flowers

Whiff Mon 04-Sep-23 19:58:42

Please excuse any spelling mistakes my hands tremble.

Fleurpepper Mon 04-Sep-23 20:07:35

Whiff thank you for your post and I am so sorry about your Mum.

I had a big scare this Spring, and we discussed the future at lengths. Having so many friends who had the same outsome as your poor mum, and huge issues with reconstructions- we decided together that I would have full mastectomy and no reconstruction or replacement. Was so so lucky that it ended up not being cancer after all.

Yes, right decision for you is the best.

GrandNanna Mon 04-Sep-23 20:21:25

Hi mcm5 I had a mastectomy and one lymph node removed in February, day surgery, still feels tight and numb butI didnt have any real pain. No reconstruction .Important to do the breast care exercises the physio gives you. I was considered too frail for chemo and wasnt suitable for radiotherapy due to Parkinson's Disease arm tremor same side, couldnt keep still enough so would be dangerous. I live alone and do worry about the future. Best wishes, the breast care team were wonderful!

JdotJ Tue 05-Sep-23 12:15:35

Wishing you all the best

deedeedum Tue 05-Sep-23 12:26:43

Yes, it is a shock but the actual operation is not too bad. Infact the "cure" is worse than the op depending on what treatment is decided. All will be well, don't worry about prosthetic they work quite well. Good Luck.

NemosMum Tue 05-Sep-23 12:29:59

Mcm5 sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I had a mastectomy January 2018 after a diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Because this is a very aggressive cancer, and very likely to metastasise, I was told that a reconstruction would be delayed for a year. I said that was fine as I didn't want a reconstruction, and would prefer to go flat. The surgeon was very pressing and said she would do my other one too, so I would have a matching pair. I declined, and was rather dismayed to find they'd left me with a flap on one side, in case I should change my mind. Could have made a fuss, but didn't. The mastectomy & lymph node clearance took 2 hours, and I had only paracetamol (the anaesthetist had done a very good 'regional block' which carried me through to the next day with no pain. I am grateful to have been discharged as a NED "No Evidence of Disease" after 5 years. I wear a silicone prosthesis in my bra, and it's very comfortable. I don't think anyone can tell the difference. If I'd had a reconstruction, that would have been hours of further surgery, and would have disfigured another part of my anatomy. Why bother? The Breast Care Nurses were full of "Oh, you will suffer changes to your body image and you will mourn the loss of your womanhood". Absolute nonsense! Of course, I would rather not have had to have a mastectomy, but I'm glad to be alive 5 years later. The only thing I mourn is not being able to tuck a towel into my cleavage after a shower! I'm sure that there are many women who feel bereft of their lost boob, but tbh, I've seen a few 'reconstructions', and they are no way the same as the home-grown variety, and you don't get proper/any sensation in them. Who are you going to show them to anyway? Is it really worth it? It's up to you, but don't be pressurised by an over-enthusiastic surgeon or other people's expectation. Good luck.

LilyoftheValley Tue 05-Sep-23 12:32:38

No experience either, but sending love and support.

grandtanteJE65 Tue 05-Sep-23 12:39:41

I don't live in Britain, where I assume you are living, so my advice may not be applicable.

First I am sorry to hear your news, and yes, your head will be all over the place right now - which means, among other things, that now is not the time to decide things like, whether you want a reconstruction done or to wear a prosthetic bra.

Please, do either google cancer support groups in your area, or better, phone the relevant dept. of your hospital and ask to speak to a nurse who specialises in advising and caring for mastectomy patients. She will be able to give you the contact information for a support group, where you will be able to talk to a woman who has been through the same as you.

I am surpised you are talking about a 6-8 hour operation for reconstruction - are you basing this on factual information from the consultant who diagnosed you? It is my understanding that it is many years (about 30!) ago that these operations took so long. Now they are often performed immediately the breast has been removed.

Another very important thing: please do remember that cancer treatment has improved immensely in the last few years, so your chance of a complete recovery are very good indeed, but you do need someone who is qualified to answer all your doubts and questions, and this is where a support group comes in.

I wish you the best of luck with the op. and a full recovery.

Qwerty Tue 05-Sep-23 12:54:09

No first hand experience but a friend had a mastectomy at least ten years ago, in her sixties, and intended having a reconstruction. Having been leapfrogged repeatedly, understandably, by patients needing masectomies, she eventually gave up on having a reconstruction. Another friend, slightly older and more recently, decided not to bother with a reconstruction from the outset. A third friend, same age as you, is in your current position and worried sick. She has found the Macmillan Cancer Nurse extremely reassuring. Good Luck.

ANMI52 Tue 05-Sep-23 13:03:19

I had a mastectomy and reconstruction 11 years ago when I was 60. I’ve had no problems since, was lucky not to require chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Have you been introduced to a breast nurse specialist? They are usually part of the team and a great person to talk things over with. Hope all goes well whatever you decide to do.

Gundy Tue 05-Sep-23 13:04:10

I’m sorry you are facing (breast) cancer - it throws you for a loop when faced with it. I’m a breast cancer survivor - I’m here to tell you… try not o be afraid. Survival rates are Much Better now than in the past due to advanced technology and treatments.

I had a lumpectomy and lymph nodes removed under my arm. You’re facing a mastectomy and will have to decide on which options you’ll choose. Everyone’s experience is different. Personally, at this age, I would not do reconstruction, but use a prosthetic. Surgery won’t be as long, or complicated and recovery may go better.

Many stories here being shared. If there’s cancer history in your family you might have to consider a double mastectomy to avoid another surgery. But a reappearance of cancer may not happen. Things we don’t know.

I had to have radiation but no chemo. I was prescribed a five yr follow up medication which I declined (at my own peril?) Doctor wasn’t happy but too bad, my choice (early intake of Med made me so ill, I couldn’t function.) Cancer free for six years. I live on a wing and a prayer everyday and have never been happier. Grateful for each day. Please go into your surgery with confidence, assurance and try to be as relaxed as possible - positive attitude is Half The Recovery!! 👍🏼
Good Luck 🍀
USA Gundy

DamaskRose Tue 05-Sep-23 13:10:53

I just wanted to wish you well and hope the advice on here helps. flowers

Tee1 Tue 05-Sep-23 13:12:16

No personal experience but wish you the very best of luck.

Treetops05 Tue 05-Sep-23 13:29:19

My Mum and two sisters went through this sadly. My Mum had a double mastectomy with no reconstruction (she didn't see the point in her late 70s), one sis had a lumpectomy and it haunts her and my final sister had a double with reconstruction. For her it was painful, but now she says it is like a boob job on the NHS - most pleasing! Good luck xx

skate Tue 05-Sep-23 13:39:01

I am so sorry, it must have been an awful shock. Like others, I have no experience of your situation but I am certain that with time to consider everything, and with (hopefully) the support of friends and family, not to mention medical expertise, you will come to the decision that works for you. Very best wishes to you.

spanielsmum Tue 05-Sep-23 13:44:36

So sorry to hear this. I had breast cancer in 1999 and had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. Managed well with a 'chicken filler'. Got no help from hospital then. It was a case of get on with it. Turn the clock forward to Feb 2022. I'd missed my usual 3 yearly mammogram due to Covid and my Diabetes nurse, suggested I chased it up. I'm so glad I did, as the mammogram showed calcium cells, indicating cancer. I had a left mastectomy in April 22. Had problems with seroma fluid and healing due to the damage from previous radiotherapy and diabetes and was told definitely no reconstruction. I'm now fully recovered, use a prosthetic boob and I'm fine. I still get a pang when I look in the mirror but I'm alive and able to be with my family. The follow up these days is excellent. You'll be fine. good luck and remember , you're not alone. I'm happy for you to contact me if you need to talk. xx

Ceit Tue 05-Sep-23 13:50:15

I had a single mastectomy aged 54 and decided against reconstruction when I learned how long the recovery would be. I've never regretted it.

Bella23 Tue 05-Sep-23 14:00:03

No experience either but wish you good luck. Two of my friends have had full mastectomies and neither chose reconstruction. Both have prostheses but you would never know even under tight tee

ExDancer Tue 05-Sep-23 14:04:01

There is a wonderful woman who attends the same NHS hydrotherapy pool as me who has just had her breast removed. She is 77 and quite a large lady with breasts to match. She has talked about her operation from the start and shared her trauma with us.
We have a communal changing room and she's showed us her scar which is surprisingly tidy, and she opted for no reconstruction - she says she can use her 'chicken fillets' in the empty side of her bra as she's pretty sure a new replacement wouldn't match the other side unless she pays for plastic surgery, so she'll settle for being lopsided.
I really admire her stamina and hope if I'm ever in that position I can be as positive as she is.
She considers herself to be fortunate that she can have the treatment which has saved her life.
But I'm sure she 'has her moments' bless her.

Luckygirl3 Tue 05-Sep-23 14:04:25

My sister has had 2 lots of breast surgery - partial mastectomy in early 30s, then further removal a few years later. She has never bothered with implants, reconstruction or prostheses. She just lives with what she calls her "Cornish pasty"!!

Nitpick48 Tue 05-Sep-23 14:04:42

I had a lumpectomy 35 years ago, I’m 75 now. If I had to have a mastectomy there’s no way I’d put myself through a reconstruction!!! It’s not a quick and easy procedure… sister had a mastectomy and a prosthesis and it works for her and no-one can tell!