Mastectomy FAQs

What is mastectomy?

Mastectomy is the surgical treatment for breast cancer, and involves the complete removal of the breast. You may be suggested one of the 5 types of mastectomy, depending on your individual conditions. These may include:

  • Simple or total mastectomy: removal of entire breast tissue
  • Modified radical mastectomy: removal of breast tissue and axillary lymph nodes in the underarm
  • Radical mastectomy: removal of breast tissue, axillary lymph nodes in the underarm and chest wall muscles
  • Partial mastectomy: removal of only the cancerous region along with a surrounding margin of healthy tissue
  • Subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy: removal of entire breast tissue except the nipple

Am I candidate for mastectomy?

You are a candidate for mastectomy if:

  • Tumor is larger than 5 cm
  • Breasts are small
  • Previous attempts with lumpectomy have failed
  • Not a good candidate for lumpectomy and radiation

How is mastectomy different from lumpectomy?

While mastectomy removes the entire breast tissue, lumpectomy is a breast-conserving surgery that involves the removal of only the tumor, along with a surrounding margin of healthy tissue. Lumpectomy is usually followed by radiation therapy and is as effective as mastectomy for single-site cancers less than 4 cm, and is generally considered by many women who would like to retain their own natural breasts. However, lumpectomy has a higher risk of cancer recurrence.On the other hand, mastectomy has a much lower risk for cancer recurrence and is chosen by high-risk women who want to prevent cancer development. Mastectomy can be followed by breast reconstruction surgery to reconstruct the lost breast tissue.

Can I prevent breast cancer with mastectomy?

Prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery performed to remove one or both of your breasts in an effort to reduce your risk of breast cancer. It is suggested in women who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of breast cancer
  • Diagnosed positive for BRCA1, BRCA2 or PALB2 gene mutations
  • Diagnosed positive for lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
  • Radiation therapy targeted on the chest region before 30 years of age
  • Dense breasts
  • Presence of breast microcalcifications (small deposits of calcium)