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Mastectomy

A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast. It is used to treat breast cancer.

Mastectomy procedures include:

  • Total or simple mastectomy, which is the removal of the whole breast.
  • Modified radical mastectomy, which is the removal of the breast, some of the lymph nodes under the arm, and sometimes part of the chest wall muscle.
  • Radical mastectomy, which is the removal of the breast, chest muscles, and all of the lymph nodes under the arm (axillary lymph node dissection). This surgery is rarely used now.

Depending on the location of the tumor in the breast and other factors, some women may be able to have a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy. Skin-sparing mastectomy leaves most of the skin that was over the breast, except for the nipple and the areola. Nipple-sparing mastectomy saves the skin over the breast and it saves the nipple and areola.

The removal of the breast before cancer is diagnosed is called a prophylactic mastectomy. This type of mastectomy can be used to prevent breast cancer in women who have an extremely high risk of developing the disease.

Last Revised: June 28, 2013

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology

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