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Types of Mastectomy to Treat Breast Cancer

A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast. In the past, a radical mastectomy with complete removal of the breast was the standard treatment for breast cancer. But surgical breakthroughs over the past 2 decades have given women more options than ever before. Less invasive breast-conserving treatments are available to many women.

The type of mastectomy that’s right for you depends on several things, including:

  • Your age
  • General health
  • Menopause status
  • Tumor size
  • Tumor stage (how far it's spread)
  • Tumor grade (its aggressiveness)
  • Tumor's hormone receptor status
  • Whether or not lymph nodes are involved

Various types of mastectomy are available.

What Is a Total Mastectomy?

Also called simple mastectomy, with this procedure, your doctor removes your entire breast, including the nipple. But your lymph nodes, the small glands that are part of your immune system, aren’t removed.

You’re most likely to have a total mastectomy if cancer isn’t in your lymph nodes, or if you’re having a preventative mastectomy to lower your risk of getting breast cancer.

What Is a Preventive Mastectomy?

Women who have a high risk of breast cancer may choose to have a preventive mastectomy, also called prophylactic mastectomy.

Studies show that women with a high risk of breast cancer may be as much as 90% less likely to get the disease after preventive mastectomy.

Usually, a total mastectomy -- removing the entire breast and nipple -- is recommended. In some cases, women have both breasts removed. This is called a double mastectomy.

Some women who've had breast cancer in one breast will decide to have a preventive mastectomy to remove the other breast. This can reduce the chance of cancer reoccurrence.

If you plan to have breast reconstruction, it can be done at the time of the preventive mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at a later time (delayed reconstruction). During breast reconstruction, the surgeon may use synthetic implants or tissue flaps from another part of your body to create a breast.

What Is a Partial Mastectomy?

Women with stage I or stage II breast cancer may have this procedure. It’s is a breast-conserving method in which the tumor and the tissue surrounding it are all that’s removed.

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