A mastectomy with lymph node dissection takes about 2 hours. Usually, the incision is made in the shape of an oval around the nipple, running across the width of the breast. The surgeon separates your breast tissue from your overlying skin and from the chest wall muscle underneath. All of the breast tissue ó which lies between the collarbone and ribs, from the side of the body to the breastbone in the center ó is removed. If you are having a modified radical or full radical mastectomy, some of your chest muscle also may be removed. Once this is done, your surgeon will insert drains and then close the wound with stitches.
The average hospital stay for a mastectomy is about 2 or 3 days. If you opt to have breast reconstructive surgery at the same time, your stay will be longer. Your body will need about 3 to 4 weeks to heal properly before you can resume your normal activities, such as working.