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Mastectomy

Mastectomy is surgery to remove all tissue from a breast. Mastectomy may be used to treat or prevent breast cancer. Breast reconstruction – surgery to restore shape to the breast – may be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or at a later date.

Why Mastectomy is Done

Mastectomy is done to remove a diagnosed breast cancer or to prevent breast cancer in people who are at very high risk of developing breast cancer.

Mastectomy may be a treatment option for many types of breast cancer, including:

  • Noninvasive breast cancer, or ductal carcinoma in situ

  • Early-stage breast cancer

  • Locally-advanced breast cancer, following chemotherapy

  • Inflammatory breast cancer, following chemotherapy

  • Locally recurrent breast cancer

Mastectomy may also be considered in people who have a very high risk of developing breast cancer, based on a strong family history of breast cancer or the presence of certain genetic mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer.

Types of Mastectomy

There are several different types of mastectomies, based on how the surgery is performed and how much tissue is removed:

  • Simple (or total mastectomy). This is the most common type of mastectomy used to treat breast cancer. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast.

  • Modified radical mastectomy. This procedure combines a simple mastectomy with removal of the lymph nodes under the arm.

  • Double mastectomy. Also known as bilateral mastectomy, this procedure involves removal of both breasts. This is often done as preventive surgery for women at very high risk of getting cancer in the other breast, such as those with a BRCA gene mutation.

  • Prophylactic mastectomy. Also known as preventive or risk-reducing mastectomy, this involves removal of both breasts—bilateral mastectomy—and is reserved for those who are known to be at a very high risk of breast cancer.

  • Skin-sparing mastectomy. Newer mastectomy techniques can preserve breast skin, reduce scar tissue and potentially allow for a more natural breast appearance. In this procedure, most of the skin over the breast—other than the nipple and areola—is left intact. Implants or tissue from other parts of the body are then used to reconstruct the breast.

Finding a Team of Breast Cancer Specialists

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, the Saint Barnabas Medical Center offers a caring, multidisciplinary team of breast specialists – including medical oncologists, breast interventional radiologists, breast surgeons and radiation oncologist – who are dedicated to providing the highest level of treatment for breast cancer.