If you receive a call from your doctor saying you should consider a mastectomy, to remove a cancerous breast or to prevent the possibility of breast cancer, it can leave you feeling shocked and overwhelmed. Beyond the trauma of receiving a mastectomy recommendation, there are several different options for mastectomies.
Which surgical procedure is right for you depends on your unique body and diagnosis.
Every type of surgery involves some risk, which is why it’s essential that you explore your particular risks and the likely outcome in detail with your surgeon. That said, here are the four major types of mastectomies available:
In a simple, or total, mastectomy, the entire breast, including the skin, nipple, and areola, or the small circular area of pigmented skin around the nipple, is removed, but the lymph nodes are not. Surgeons perform simple mastectomies by an elliptical incision that leaves a single scar across the chest.
In a skin-sparing mastectomy, surgeons preserve as much of the breast skin as possible to perform immediate breast reconstruction during the same surgery as the mastectomy. A skin-sparing mastectomy can be done as a simple mastectomy or a radical mastectomy, where the lymph nodes in the armpit get removed. The surgeon removes the skin of the nipple, areola, and the original biopsy scar. Then, the breast tissue is removed through a small opening. The remaining skin provides the optimal shape and form to accommodate an implant or reconstruction with your tissue, also known as autologous tissue.
In a radical mastectomy, the surgeon removes all of the breast tissue, including the skin, nipple, and areola, as well as the lymph nodes under the armpit. The chest muscles themselves don’t get removed. Because removing the lymph nodes can prevent the spread of cancer beyond the breast, as well as provide doctors with information about the extent of cancer, this procedure can be considered in cases of invasive breast cancer.
In a nipple-sparing mastectomy, the breast is removed while retaining the skin, nipple, and areola. It thus requires no reconstruction and is frequently used by women undergoing mastectomies for preventing the development of breast cancer.
In addition to the four major types of mastectomies, women who carry the risk of developing breast cancer but don’t have it yet may choose to undergo a bilateral risk-reducing mastectomy. Surgeons usually recommend this risk-reducing surgery to women with a family history of breast cancer or a positive test for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which signal up to 90 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 70.
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Has the information on our blog helped you or a loved one understand the options available to breast cancer patients? At the AiRS Foundation, we advocate on behalf of breast cancer patients, so they receive the knowledge and help needed to live full lives during and after breast cancer. Consider helping us by donating or volunteering! We are ALWAYS in need of help!