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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer Surgery Options

Simple or Total Mastectomy


With a simple or total mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, but no lymph nodes are removed. Simple mastectomy is most frequently used to prevent new cancer from developing or when the cancer does not go to the lymph nodes. This procedure is usually performed to treat in situ, microinvasive, and stage IA breast cancers.

With a double mastectomy, both breasts are removed. This is a preventative type of surgery that is performed when there is a high risk of getting cancer in the other breast. 

Radical Mastectomy

In a radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes the whole breast and nipple, lymph nodes in the armpit, and chest muscles under the breast. This operation is rarely done today, because a modified radical mastectomy is as effective and is less disfiguring.

Modified Radical Mastectomy


The surgeon removes the entire breast along with the nipple. Some lymph nodes in the armpit are removed. The chest muscles are not removed.


After Your Surgery

After breast cancer surgery, many women get breast reconstruction surgery. This can be done right after the breast cancer surgery or later on. The surgeon makes a normal-looking breast either with breast implants or the patient's own tissue from another part of the body.

Your hospital stay depends on the kind of surgery you get. Lumpectomies can be done on an outpatient basis, with the patient recovering in a short-stay observation unit afterward.

Mastectomies and lymph node removal surgeries usually require a 1- to 2-night stay in the hospital.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 05, 2015
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