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A mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one of your breasts usually because some or all of the tissue is cancerous. If only part of the breast needs to be removed, this is known as a segmentectomy. There are four main types of mastectomy:
  1. Simple mastectomy: the breast tissue and skin are both removed
  2. Subcutaneous mastectomy: the breast tissue is removed but the skin is untouched
  3. Radical mastectomy: the breast tissue, skin, muscles behind the breast and lymph glands in the armpit are all removed
  4. Modified radical mastectomy: the same as radical mastectomy but the pectoral muscles are left in place
After the breast has been removed, you may have another operation to create an artificial breast. A mastectomy is a successful and safe operation with an excellent recovery rate. Physiotherapy is extremely effective at optimising recovery following a mastectomy and have specialist physiotherapists who will work with you and design a physiotherapy programme specific to your needs. understand that a mastectomy is a difficult operation both physically and emotionally and the physiotherapists are experienced at dealing with such sensitive issues.

Chest toning and stretching exercises as part of rehabilitation following surgeryAbove: Chest toning and stretching exercises as part of rehabilitation following surgery

Why might I need a mastectomy?

A mastectomy is usually recommended for individuals with breast cancer but there are also a variety of specific reasons for having the operation:
  • To reduce the risk of breast cancer in a healthy breast
  • The cancerous tissue has spread to other areas
  • A tumour just behind the nipple

What does a mastectomy involve?

The operation is done under general anaesthetic which means you will be asleep throughout the surgery and will not feel anything. The operation can take up to two hours and an incision (cut) will be made on the breast where the breast tissue will be removed from. Skin may also be removed depending on the type of mastectomy you are having.

If you are having an artificial breast, a breast reconstruction will be carried out where silicone or tissue from another area such as your abdominals or back will be used to create a new breast.

What are the symptoms following a mastectomy?

Symptoms vary greatly and depends on the type of mastectomy carried out. Your physiotherapist at will help you manage your symptoms so you experience as little discomfort as possible. Symptoms may include:

What does physiotherapy for a mastectomy involve?

Although mastectomies are very successful, the surgical procedure is invasive and therefore physiotherapy is an effective way of reducing post operative pain and stiffness and helping you return to your normal activities of daily living as soon as possible. The specialist physiotherapists at will carry out a full assessment and work with you to set goals for your recovery to design an individualised physiotherapy programme.

Week 1

You will be required to stay in hospital for a few days after your operation as an in-patient to make sure that there are no complications and you are recovering well. Once you have been discharged, it is important that you begin your physiotherapy programme with as soon as possible. Physiotherapy may include:

Weeks 2-4

The temporary symptoms that you may have experienced during the first week after your operation should now be reducing and you will feel able to do more around the house. Your physiotherapist at will now focus on gradually improving your independence. Physiotherapy may include:
  • Teaching of scar mobility techniques
  • Arm exercises to improve strength and movement
  • Provision of adaptations to help you around the home if needed
  • Increasing mobility

Weeks 5 onwards

You should now feel a lot more independent and wanting to return to your normal lifestyle. will encourage more activity but also highlight the importance of pacing yourself to optimise your recovery. Physiotherapy could include:
  • Gradual return to normal activities of daily living
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Progression of arm and shoulder exercises
  • Cardiovascular activity
  • Reducing dependence on adaptations and equipment
It is important that you continue with your physiotherapy for up to six months after your operation. This will give you the best chance of a successful recovery and reduce the risk of long term complications.


A mastectomy is an operation to remove the breast usually because the tissue has been affected by cancer. The surgery has very high success rates and it is important that you have physiotherapy to optimise your recovery. The specialist physiotherapists at will work with you to design a personalised programme to reduce your symptoms following the surgery and reduce the risk of any other complications. Please call today on 0330 088 7800 to book an appointment. You can also book an appointment online today.

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