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The surgical removal of breast as a part of breast cancer treatment is called mastectomy. This medical procedure is not only carried out to treat breast cancer, but also other conditions. These include gynecomastia, that is, growth of breast in men. In this article, we shall learn more about mastectomy and its implications.

Types of Mastectomy

As we have already understood, the surgical removal of whole breast is called as mastectomy. It is usually carried out on high-risk cancer patients. In some people, bilateral mastectomy is carried out, that is, removal of all or some tissues in both breasts. There are different types of mastectomies. These surgeries depend on the location and severity of the cancer.

Simple Mastectomy:

What to Expect-

Also called as total mastectomy, it involves removal of the entire breast. It does not involve removal of lymph nodes under the arms. However, certain lymph nodes that are located within the breast tissue are removed to prevent the spread of cancer. The nipples and areola too are removed in this surgery. However, the muscles under the breast are not removed.

Reasons for Simple Mastectomy-

This surgery is often suggested for women who suffer from ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or multiple tumors. It may also be advised to women who are looking forward to prevent breast cancer from occurring. These women are those who have high genetic risk of developing cancer. It is thus, also called as prophylactic or preventive mastectomy in this case.


It involves removal of entire breast tissue. Thus, one may suffer from loss of chest on one side. Total mastectomy can be paired with cosmetic surgery or breast reconstruction surgery, if desired.

Modified Radical Mastectomy:

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What to Expect-

The removal of all breast tissue along with lymph nodes is called as modified radical mastectomy. The lymph nodes from the armpits of the affected side of the cancer are removed.

Reasons for Modified Radical Mastectomy-

It is carried out on patients who suffer from an invasive form of breast cancer. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, they too are removed along with the breast tissue. However, the pectoral muscles are not removed.


This surgery too can be combined along with a breast reconstruction surgery as the shape of the chest may be altered as well as leave a scar.

Radical Mastectomy:

What to Expect-

Also called as Halsted mastectomy, it was once a widely used procedure. Today it is limited to only patients with advanced breast cancer. In this procedure, all the breast tissues, lymph nodes under the armpit of affected side as well as the muscles under breast tissue are removed.

Reasons for Radical Mastectomy-

The radical mastectomy is performed only on patients whose cancer has spread to the muscle tissues. Only skin that can help in covering the incision made is left.


The surgery is quite disfiguring. Only the skin remains covering the ribs. Thus, one has to be counseled before the surgery.

Skin-sparing Mastectomy:

What to Expect-

This surgery is carried out through a small incision made around the areola. The skin is preserved as much as possible. This helps in breast reconstruction surgery. It is not carried out on patients with skin cancers.

Nipple-sparing Mastectomy:

What to Expect-

This surgery involves removal of breast tissue without removing nipple. In this procedure, not much breast tissue is removed. Thus, it is also called as subcutaneous mastectomy.

Reasons for Nipple-sparing Mastectomy-

It was usually carried out in case of benign cancers. However, it is not much favored by physicians as it leaves the chances of recurrence of cancer.

After the surgery, patients require a lot of counseling and support. Mastectomy causes a woman to lose an important part of her anatomy. Today, many breast reconstruction procedures are available that help in overcoming disfigurement. Prosthetics are available that help in balancing the lost breast with the natural breast. Also, many padded bras as well as suits are available that help in maintaining the figure. Speak to your physician regarding all the pros and cons of mastectomy as well as alternatives before taking this life altering decision.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015

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