Won't all this time delay mean that the cancer has more chance to spread?No. Studies have shown that a short delay between biopsy and treatment will not affect the spread of disease or reduce the chances for successful treatment. An interval of 2 days to a week between the two procedures is not a problem. Many medical professionals now agree that this time delay is perfectly acceptable and in most cases is a wise way to proceed. The advantages of getting all of the necessary information about the extent of the cancer far outweigh the advantages of performing a quick, disfiguring operation.
I feel I need some time to think, but everybody keeps pushing me to have the biopsy and the operation done right away. What should I do?It is important to have the time to think and to look at the alternatives. You may want to talk it over with your husband and children, your sisters, your mother, or your friends. You may want to get a second opinion. It is all right to take a few extra days to make the right decision. It is better to take the time to study than to make a hasty choice. On the other hand, some people want to have it done and over with. If you are that kind of person, go ahead as long as you feel comfortable with your choice.
If I knew I could have a breast reconstruction, maybe the decision wouldn't be so hard to make. Is this something I can decide at this time?Yes. This is something you should discuss with your doctor. You should ask your surgeon for a consultation with a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy if possible, even though the full extent of the reconstruction can't be determined until after the incision has healed. In some cases, the plastic surgeon can be in the operating room at the time of the mastectomy. Some women feel that the prospect of reconstruction makes a great deal of difference in their attitude toward the mastectomy.
What is meant by lymph node involvement?The doctors check to see whether or not the cancer which started in the breast has spread to the lymph nodes under the arm. This can be done during the biopsy stage. Treatment for breast cancer which has spread to the lymph nodes is different from treatment for localized breast cancer which has not yet begun to spread.
Can the doctor check whether there is any involvement with the lymph nodes if the biopsy is done as part of a twostep procedure?Yes, he can.
What happens when a biopsy is done on an outpatient basis?The patient is prepared for surgery and premedicated with a relaxant. A dose of local anesthetic is injected into the skin, the incision is made, and the lump is removed. There should be no pain. The sutures are carefully made, a pressure bandage is used to cover the incision, and the patient is taken back to her room and allowed to relax until the medication has worn off. Usually the operation is performed in the morning and the patient is ready to leave the hospital in the afternoon. The stitches are usually removed within 3 or 4 days, at which time the doctor will give the patient the result of the pathologist's report.
Is there any pain with a biopsy?It is common to have some pain in the area of the operation, but the following suggestions can help to ease it:
• Take pain medicine as directed by the doctor or nurse.
• Wear a supportive bra 24 hours a day.
• For a few days, don't make lifting and pulling motions with your arm on the side of the biopsy.
• Try to stay warm, as cold temperatures will cause your nipple to contract, which may result in pulling on the stitches.