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Prophylactic Mastectomy Definition


Updated October 13, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: A prophylactic mastectomy is surgery that may be done to remove one or both breasts for the purpose of reducing the risk of development or recurrence of breast cancer.

A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast, usually after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Prophylactic is defined as a preventative measure, treatment, medication, or device that is used to ward off a disease or condition.

Pronunciation: prah-fi-LAC-tic mah-STEK-to-mee
Also Known As: preventive mastectomy, risk-reducing mastectomy, elective mastectomy, voluntary mastectomy
Common Misspellings: profilacktic, masectomy
Women who are at high risk for developing breast cancer may choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy in an effort to prevent the disease from occurring. Because a woman without a diagnosis of breast cancer may have a preventive mastectomy, she is called a previvor instead of a survivor.

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