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Surgery for Male Breast Cancer

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Surgery is usually the first treatment if the breast abnormality is found to be a cancer. Surgery helps get complete information about the cancer and it is a critical step in your treatment. The most common surgery in men is called a modified radical mastectomy. This means that the nipple, areola (dark, round area around the nipple), and all of the breast tissue are removed. The muscles on the chest are left alone. Lymph nodes are also removed. A lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery) is not usually done because men's breasts are so small. By the time the tumor and the tissue around it have been removed, very little breast tissue is left.

A mastectomy requires general anesthesia and usually a night or longer in the hospital. You may feel pain after the surgery that usually gets better in a few weeks. Surgery also has several possible side effects:

  • Numbness of the skin along the incision site and mild to moderate tenderness of the adjacent area (due to cut nerves). This is very common.
  • Extra sensitivity to touch within the area of surgery. This is also due to irritated nerve endings. The sensation usually improves as the nerves grow back.
  • Fluid collecting under the scar. This may be hematoma — an accumulation of blood in the wound — or seroma, an accumulation of clear fluid in the wound. Both tend to resolve slowly over time. But if the hematoma or seroma is causing a problem, your doctor may recommend removing the fluid collection. A seroma can be removed relatively easily, with a needle. Sometimes the seroma can come back. Your doctor might just leave it alone until the body is able to absorb it. It's uncommon to remove a hematoma. The blood turns into big clot. If it needs to be removed, the incision may need to be opened up to get the clot out.
  • Delayed wound healing. During mastectomy, some of the little blood vessels that supply your breast tissue are cut. Occasionally that can cause problems when your body tries to heal the incision site. If there isn't enough blood flow to the flaps of your incision, small areas of skin may wither and scab or need to be trimmed by your surgeon. This is uncommon and is usually a minor complication.
  • Risk of infection in the surgical area. Signs of infection include pink and red skin changes, swelling, tenderness, and warmth. If the infection gets worse, you may develop a fever, chills, and sweats. Call your doctor immediately if these signs or symptoms develop. Infection usually responds well to antibiotics, particularly if caught early. Infection along with a hematoma may require antibiotics and removal of the hematoma.

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