A mastectomy is a surgery to remove the majority or all of the breast tissue from one or both breasts. This surgery is used to treat or prevent breast cancer. There are many types of mastectomies that can be performed depending on your cancer. 

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Answers to Your Lumpectomy Questions

A mastectomy is the alternative to breast conserving surgery. A mastectomy includes the removal of a majority of or all breast tissue. Reconstruction may be an option at the time of mastectomy or in the future. There are many different types of mastectomies that could be discussed prior to your surgery, depending on what may apply to your situation.

Simple mastectomy

Simple, or total mastectomy, includes removal of nearly all of the breast tissue, the nipple and areola, and much of the skin over the breast. The skin is closed leaving a long incision and the chest flat.

Skin-sparing mastectomy

This is a simple mastectomy that removes the breast tissue, the nipple and areola, but leaves most of the breast skin in place for immediate reconstruction.

Nipple-sparing (subcutaneous) mastectomy

A nipple sparing mastectomy may be performed in very select patients for treatment or to reduce the chances of developing breast cancer. During a nipple-sparing mastectomy, only the breast tissue is removed while keeping the skin and nipple/areola in place. This operation is performed with immediate reconstruction.

Modified radical mastectomy

A modified radical mastectomy is a combination of a simple mastectomy along with an axillary lymph node 

dissection, or the removal of the lymph nodes located in your underarm.

Radical mastectomy

A radical mastectomy includes removal of the breast, chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor), and the majority of the lymph nodes under the arm (an axillary lymph node dissection). This operation is very rarely done and would only be considered if cancer involves the muscles of the chest.

  • Because most of the breast tissue is removed, there is a very low risk of cancer recurrence in the breast after a mastectomy. 

  • Little to no breast imaging is required after a mastectomy. 

  • Patients are less likely to need radiation treatments.

  • Mastectomy with or without reconstruction may greatly change the appearance of the breast and may affect body image. 

  • Surgery usually requires at least an overnight hospital stay, which may be longer if reconstruction is performed. 

  • Recovery time is often longer than with breast conservation surgery.

Your surgeon will inform you if you need to see an anesthesiologist prior to your surgery. A surgery office staff member will assist you in arranging these appointments.

Insurance approval will be done by the billing offices. Precertification is done according to your insurance requirements.

You will be given discharge instructions before leaving the hospital the day of your procedure. Your surgeon’s office will likely review some of the post-op instructions with you before your surgery and will have specific instructions or handouts for you regarding your particular procedure.

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