You’ll be taken to the anaesthetic bay near the operating theatre and made comfortable.

Your anaesthetist will insert an intravenous cannula into a vein for the anaesthetic, fluid and other drugs. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, you’ll be taken to the operating theatre.

Your surgeon may use a pen to mark the area of your breast that’s going to be operated on.


Before starting the surgery, you surgeon pinpoints the exact location of the cancer using guide-wires, ultrasound or radio-guided localisation.

Your surgeon then makes an incision in the affected area of your breast and removes the cancerous tissue. The surgeon also removes a small area of healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue. This is called the ‘surgical margin’.

After removing the cancerous tissue, the surgeon may make a separate incision to remove the lymph nodes closest to the breast. These may be sent to a pathologist for examination during the operation. If there are more abnormal cells found, the surgeon will remove more nodes.

After your surgery, the entire specimen will be sent to a pathologist for examination. It'll be measured and checked under a microscope for smaller groups of cancer cells, which may be invisible to the naked eye.

A lumpectomy normally takes between 15 and 40 minutes.


During a full mastectomy, your entire breast is removed, including your nipple and the lymph nodes from your armpit. Your surgeon does this through one incision so there are no additional scars under your arm. The muscles in your chest aren’t removed, but there may be some tissue left on your chest so there’s enough skin to do a breast reconstruction or hold an implant.

A mastectomy normally takes between 1 and 2 hours.

Breast reconstruction

Your breast may be reconstructed immediately after the operation, or at a later date.



After your procedure

Your hospital stay.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.