Mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast.
Some women have the option of mastectomy or lumpectomy (also called breast conserving surgery) plus radiation therapy. Other women can only have mastectomy.
Learn more about the surgical procedure for mastectomy.
Learn more about lumpectomy.
Mastectomy is an option for those who have:
Mastectomy is also used to treat breast cancer that has come back after lumpectomy plus radiation therapy.
Mastectomy is the main treatment for breast cancer in men.
Learn more about treatment for breast cancer in men.
Some women have a very high risk of breast cancer due to an inherited gene mutation. These women may have one or both breasts removed to try to prevent breast cancer (called prophylactic mastectomy).
A woman at very high risk who has cancer in one breast may have her healthy breast removed to try to prevent breast cancer in the healthy breast (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy).
A woman at increased risk who does not have breast cancer, may have both breasts removed to try to prevent breast cancer (bilateral prophylactic mastectomy).
Learn more about prophylactic mastectomy.
There are two general types of mastectomy: total (simple) and modified radical. Your diagnosis guides which type of mastectomy you will have.
Figure 5.2 below shows the types of mastectomy and describes when each is used.
Total (simple) mastectomy
The surgeon removes the entire breast and the lining of the chest muscle, but no other tissue.
For some women, the skin of the breast may be left intact (called a skin-sparing mastectomy) for breast reconstruction.
In some cases, the nipple may also be left intact (called a nipple-sparing mastectomy).
A sentinel node biopsy may be done or no lymph nodes may be removed, depending on the breast cancer.
Total (simple) mastectomy is used to treat:
It is also used for women at high risk who have prophylactic mastectomy. Learn more about prophylactic mastectomy.
Modified radical mastectomy
The surgeon removes the entire breast, the lining of the chest muscles and some of the lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary nodes).
Modified radical mastectomy may be used to treat invasive breast cancers including:
If you are having breast reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, the surgeon may be able to use a skin-sparing technique, and possibly a nipple-sparing technique.
A skin-sparing mastectomy saves much of the skin of the breast. The plastic surgeon can use this skin as an envelope to help form the reconstructed breast.
A nipple-sparing mastectomy preserves the nipple and areola.
Learn more about breast reconstruction.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, treatment guidelines help ensure quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and the consensus of experts.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly update and post their guidelines online. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) also has overviews of treatment options.
Some women choose to have breast reconstruction to help restore the look of the breast that was removed. This may be done at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate) or later (delayed).
It is important to discuss your reconstruction options with your plastic surgeon before your breast surgery.
Learn more about mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
Learn about different types of breast reconstruction.
You may not live near the hospital where you will have your surgery. Sometimes, there are programs that offer help with local or long-distance transportation and lodging. Some also offer transportation and lodging for a friend or family member going with you.
There are also programs to help you with child care and elder care costs.
Learn more about transportation, lodging, child care and elder care assistance.
Susan G. Komen’s Breast Care Helpline: 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636)
Calls to our breast care helpline are answered by a trained and caring staff member Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PT. Our helpline provides free, professional support services to anyone with breast cancer questions or concerns, including breast cancer survivors and their families. You can also email the breast care helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some women can have a lumpectomy plus radiation therapy instead of a mastectomy.
Learn more about deciding between lumpectomy and mastectomy.
Interactive Treatment Navigation Tool
Breast Cancer 101 - Mastectomy
Komen Treatment Assistance Fund
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)
What gives you strength during treatment?