Mastectomy

Mastectomy is surgery to remove all breast tissue from a breast as a way to treat or prevent breast cancer.

For those with early-stage breast cancer, mastectomy may be one treatment option. Breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy), in which only the tumor is removed from the breast, may be another option.

Deciding between mastectomy and lumpectomy can be difficult. Both procedures are equally effective for preventing a recurrence of breast cancer. But lumpectomy isn't an option for everyone with breast cancer, and others prefer to undergo a mastectomy.

Newer mastectomy techniques can preserve breast skin and allow for a more natural breast appearance following the procedure. This is also known as skin-sparing mastectomy.

Surgery to restore shape to your breast — called breast reconstruction — may be done at the same time as your mastectomy or during a second operation at a later date.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Mastectomy is used to remove all breast tissue if you have breast cancer or are at very high risk of developing it. You may have a mastectomy to remove one breast (unilateral mastectomy) or both breasts (bilateral mastectomy).

Mastectomy for breast cancer treatment

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

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ, or noninvasive breast cancer
  • Stages I and II (early-stage) breast cancer
  • Stage III (locally advanced) breast cancer — after chemotherapy
  • Inflammatory breast cancer — after chemotherapy
  • Paget's disease of the breast
  • Locally recurrent breast cancer

Your doctor may recommend mastectomy instead of lumpectomy plus radiation if:

  • You have two or more tumors in separate areas of the breast.
  • You have widespread or malignant-appearing calcium deposits (microcalcifications) throughout the breast that have been determined to be cancer after a breast biopsy.
  • You've previously had radiation treatment to the breast region and the breast cancer has recurred in the breast.
  • You're pregnant and radiation creates an unacceptable risk to your unborn child.
  • You've had lumpectomy, but cancer is still present at the edges (margin) of the operated area and there is concern about cancer elsewhere in the breast.
  • You carry a gene mutation that gives you a high risk of developing a second cancer in your breast.
  • You have a large tumor relative to the overall size of your breast. You may not have enough healthy tissue left after lumpectomy to achieve an acceptable cosmetic result.
  • You have a connective tissue disease, such as scleroderma or lupus, and may not tolerate the side effects of radiation to the skin.
  • You live a long distance from a radiation facility and it would be very difficult to be there for treatment for five to six weeks.

Mastectomy to prevent breast cancer

You might also consider mastectomy if you don't have breast cancer, but have a very high risk of developing the disease.

Preventive (prophylactic) or risk-reducing mastectomy involves removing both of your breasts and significantly reduces your risk of developing breast cancer in the future.

Prophylactic mastectomy is reserved for women with a very high risk of breast cancer, which is determined by a strong family history of breast cancer or the presence of certain genetic mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer.

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