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Mastectomy - Surgery for Breast Cancer

Four Types of Mastectomy to Remove Breast Cancer


Updated December 30, 2008

Modified Radical Mastectomy

Modified Radical Mastectomy

Illustration © ADAM
A mastectomy is the oldest known treatment for breast cancer. Before the development of the lumpectomy and quadrantectomy, a mastectomy was only surgery for this disease. A mastectomy removes the entire breast and may include the removal of skin and muscle.

Four Types of Mastectomy
Mastectomy is surgery to remove breast tissue. The breast may be removed because of cancer or fibrocystic disease. There are several different degrees of mastectomy.

  • A simple or total mastectomy is the removal of all the breast tissue and skin, including nipple and areola. Lymph nodes and chest muscles are left undisturbed. Prophylactic mastectomies for women at high risk for breast cancer are usually simple mastectomies.
  • The modified radical mastectomy removes the nipple and areola, most of the breast skin, the breast tissue, and the lymph nodes in the armpit area (axilla). No muscle is removed during a modified mastectomy.
  • A radical or Halstead mastectomy removes the nipple and areola, the breast skin and tissue, and may also remove a part of the chest wall muscle underneath the breast. The lymph nodes in the armpit area (axilla) also are removed and tested for cancer.
  • For women who are planning on immediate reconstruction, a skin-sparing mastectomy can be done. During a skin-sparing mastectomy, the breast tissue, nipple and areola are removed, and most of the breast skin is retained. This remaining skin is closed over the reconstruction site.
A New Silhouette
If you do not have breast reconstruction, post-mastectomy you will have a slightly curved scar at the incision, and the skin in the breast area will be flat. Taking good care of the scar will result in a fine light line, over time. You can use a prosthetic bra, which has pockets to hold breast prosthesis, if you like, to balance your appearance.

Completing The Picture - Breast Reconstruction
After you've finished all your treatments for breast cancer, you may decide on breast reconstruction at a later date. You can consult with a plastic surgeon to see which options will best suit you. A reconstructed breast is not an instant substitute for a natural breast, and won't look or feel quite the same. Many women do report that having breast reconstruction helps improve their self-image and esteem, after recovering from a mastectomy.

A lumpectomy and a quadrantectomy are both considered a partial mastectomy.

American Cancer Society. Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer. Surgery for Breast Cancer. Revised: 09/13/2007.

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