Most of the more than 232,000 cases of breast cancer that will be diagnosed in the United States this year are not due to a faulty gene passed down through families. As with most other cancers, they happen because of genetic mutations that happen as we age.
But about 15% of women with breast cancer have at least one relative who has also had the disease, and 5% to 10% have specific inherited mutations in one of two genes that have been linked to breast cancer, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Infection, including redness and/or swelling of the incision with pus or foul-smelling drainage, perhaps with fever; antibiotics can be used to treat post-surgical infections.
Lymphedema, swelling of the arm and/or hand on the side of the surgery due to the removal of the lymph nodes under the arm; lymphedema often goes away on its own, but sometimes requires treatment. Treatment is usually provided by physical or occupational therapists and includes:
Wearing compression bandages to keep the swelling from recurring
Seroma, the accumulation of fluid in the location of the surgery; most of the time the fluid is absorbed by the body. However, the area may be drained, using a needle, if it does not go away on its own.
Other complications may include stiffness of the shoulder and possible numbness or altered sensation in the upper arm or armpit.
Before breast cancer surgery, your surgeon should provide you with information about recovery and follow-up care. Make sure you get all your questions answered before surgery.
Print out these Questions to Ask to take to your appointment so you can better understand your care.