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 procedure.
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 (such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation). These women often have one or both breasts removed to try to prevent breast cancer (called prophylactic mastectomy).
A woman with a BRCA1/2 gene mutation who has cancer in one breast may have her healthy breast removed to try to prevent breast cancer (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy).
A woman with a BRCA1/2 gene mutation who doesn’t 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 for breast reconstruction (called a skin-sparing mastectomy) .
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:
Total mastectomy is also used for women at high risk who have 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:
If you are having breast reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, the surgeon may be able to use a skin-sparing technique, or possibly a nipple-sparing technique.
A skin-sparing mastectomy removes all of the breast tissue, but 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 is a skin-sparing mastectomy that also preserves the nipple and areola.
Some women choose to have breast reconstruction to help restore the look of the breast that was removed.
Reconstruction 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.
Some women choose not to have reconstructive surgery or to do it later.
When no reconstruction is planned, the surgeon will leave the area as flat as possible so a breast prosthesis can be comfortably fitted to the chest.
Learn more about mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
Learn about different types of breast reconstruction.
Learn about insurance coverage and financial assistance for breast reconstruction.
If you don’t want to have reconstruction, you can get a breast prosthesis. This is a breast form made of silicone gel, foam or other materials that is fitted to your chest.
The form is either placed directly on top of your skin or in the pocket of a special bra.
Your health care provider can discuss breast prosthesis options with you and help you choose the type that best fits your lifestyle.
Your prosthesis can be properly fitted several weeks after your mastectomy surgery.
Learn about insurance coverage for breast prosthesis and financial assistance for breast prosthesis.
Many women who have a mastectomy don’t benefit from radiation therapy.
However, in some cases, radiation therapy is used after mastectomy to treat the chest wall and the lymph nodes in the underarm area (axillary nodes) and the lymph nodes around the collarbone.
Some women can have a lumpectomy plus radiation therapy instead of a mastectomy.
Learn more about deciding between lumpectomy and mastectomy.
Although the exact treatment for breast cancer varies from person to person, guidelines help ensure high quality care. These guidelines are based on the latest research and agreement among experts.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) are two respected organizations that regularly review and update their guidelines.
In addition, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has treatment overviews.
Talk with your health care providers about which treatment guidelines they use. Since there’s often a lag time between the latest research and guideline updates, most providers prefer to base their treatment on the latest research.
You may not live near the hospital where you will have your surgery.
Sometimes, there are programs that 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 people diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.
You can also email the breast care helpline at email@example.com.
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