Mastectomy is a surgery performed to treat or prevent breast cancer by removing the breast tissue. Simple or total mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast tissue (along with the areola and nipples), but the muscles are left intact. Simple mastectomy can be indicated when the cancer is large or widespread, for cancer prevention, patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (noninvasive breast cancer), Paget's disease of the breast (rare cancer in the skin of or surrounding the nipple) and recurrent breast cancer.
You may be suggested one of the 5 types of mastectomy, depending on your individual conditions. These may include:
- Simple or total mastectomy: removal of entire breast tissue
- Modified radical mastectomy: removal of breast tissue and axillary lymph nodes in the underarm
- Radical mastectomy: removal of breast tissue, axillary lymph nodes in the underarm and chest wall muscles
- Partial mastectomy: removal of only the cancerous region along with a surrounding margin of healthy tissue
- Subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy: removal of entire breast tissue except the nipple
All suitable patients undergoing mastectomy will be offered a reconstruction.
The procedure is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon removes the entire breast through a 6 to 7-inch long elliptical cut starting from the inside of the breast, close to the breast bone, and continuing up and out (straight or obliquely) toward the armpit. The surgeon then inserts surgical drains (tubes to collect excess fluid) and closes the incision. As with any surgery, mastectomy also involves certain risks and complications which include infection, bleeding, pain, swelling in your arm, hard scar tissue formation at the site of surgery, shoulder pain and stiffness, numbness (especially under your arm) and accumulation of blood in the surgical site.