What is a Mastectomy?

16th Mar 2017

Mastectomy is the removal of the whole breast. There are five different types of mastectomy: "simple" or "total" mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, radical mastectomy, partial mastectomy, and subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy.

"Simple" or "total" mastectomy

Simple or total mastectomy concentrates on the breast tissue itself:

  • The surgeon removes the entire breast.
  • The surgeon does not perform axillary lymph node dissection (removal of lymph nodes in the underarm area). Sometimes, however, lymph nodes are occasionally removed because they happen to be located within the breast tissue taken during surgery.
  • No muscles are removed from beneath the breast.

Simple MastectomySimple Mastectomy

Who usually gets simple or total mastectomy?

A simple or total mastectomy is appropriate for women with multiple or large areas of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and for women seeking prophylactic mastectomies — that is, breast removal in order to prevent any possibility of breast cancer occurring.

For this type of mastectomy, we would recommend a Triangle or Tear Drop shaped Breast Form.


Modified radical mastectomy

Modified radical mastectomy involves the removal of both breast tissue and lymph nodes:

  • The surgeon removes the entire breast.
  • Axillary lymph node dissection is performed, during which levels I and II of underarm lymph nodes are removed (B and C in illustration).
  • No muscles are removed from beneath the breast.

Modified radical mastectomyModified radical mastectomy

Who usually gets a modified radical mastectomy?

Most people with invasive breast cancer who decide to have mastectomies will receive modified radical mastectomies so that the lymph nodes can be examined. Examining the lymph nodes helps to identify whether cancer cells may have spread beyond the breast.

For this type of mastectomy, we would recommend an Extended Full Breast Form or a Tear Drop shaped Breast Form.


Radical mastectomy

Radical mastectomy is the most extensive type of mastectomy:

  • The surgeon removes the entire breast.
  • Levels I, II, and III of the underarm lymph nodes are removed (B, C, and D in illustration).
  • The surgeon also removes the chest wall muscles under the breast.

Radical mastectomyRadical mastectomy

Who usually gets a radical mastectomy?

Today, radical mastectomy is recommended only when the breast cancer has spread to the chest muscles under the breast. Although common in the past, radical mastectomy is now rarely performed because in most cases, modified radical mastectomy has proven to be just as effective and less disfiguring.

For this type of mastectomy, we would recommend an Extended Full Breast Form.


Partial mastectomy

Partial mastectomy is the removal of the cancerous part of the breast tissue and some normal tissue around it. While lumpectomy is technically a form of partial mastectomy, more tissue is removed in partial mastectomy than in lumpectomy.


Nipple-sparing mastectomy

During nipple-sparing mastectomy, all of the breast tissue is removed, but the nipple is left alone.

 

Mastectomy Plus Reconstruction

Some women decide to have the breast rebuilt, or reconstructed, during the same operation that removes the breast. This is called “immediate reconstruction.” Other women may wait months or years to have a breast reconstructed.

There are many ways to reconstruct a breast. Different techniques include inserting an implant, inserting tissue from another part of your body, or using a combination.

One advantage of immediate reconstruction is that you don’t have to wake up from surgery and experience the emotional impact of having an empty space where the breast used to be. For some women, however, making decisions about immediate reconstruction is too overwhelming with all the other decisions they have to make.

Regardless of whether you are thinking about having immediate or later breast reconstruction, it’s important to plan reconstruction at a time that works well for you. For instance, healing from reconstruction surgery can sometimes cause delays for women who need prompt chemotherapy. Many surgeons also believe that radiation to a reconstructed breast can compromise the appearance and feeling of the reconstruction. Therefore, in most cases, breast reconstruction should wait until both chemotherapy and radiation are completed.

Learn more about what to expect with different types of reconstruction by visiting the Breastcancer.org Breast Reconstruction section.

If you are unsure about your reconstructive surgery, or for medical reasons you need to wait, it does not mean that you have to walk around feeling incomplete.  There are many types of breast prostheses that can make you feel comfortable and whole indefinitely, or just as a temporary solution until you are ready.
We supply several types of lifelike breast forms designed to look and feel like real breasts, as listed below.

 

< back to tips