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A mastectomy is an operation in which all breast tissue is removed from the breast to treat or prevent breast cancer.

Mastectomy may be a treatment option for women with early-stage breast cancer. Breast-conserving surgery to remove only the tumor from the breast (lumpectomy) may be another option.

Choosing between mastectomy and mastectomy can be difficult. Both methods are equally effective in preventing breast cancer from recurring. However, lumpectomy is not an option for all breast cancer patients, and some prefer a mastectomy.

A newer mastectomy allows you to preserve the skin on your breasts and give your breasts a more natural appearance after surgery. This is also known as a skin-sparing mastectomy.

Breast reshaping surgery (called breast reconstruction) may be done at the same time as the mastectomy or during his second surgery at a later date.

A mastectomy is an umbrella term used for several techniques to remove one or both breasts. In addition, the surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread.

During an axillary node dissection, the surgeon removes a number of lymph nodes from your armpit on the side of the tumor.

In a sentinel lymph node biopsy, your surgeon removes only the first few nodes into which a tumor drain (sentinel nodes).

Lymph nodes removed during a mastectomy are then tested for cancer. If no cancer is present, no further lymph nodes need be removed. If cancer is present, the surgeon will discuss options, such as radiation to your armpit. If this is what you decide to do, no further lymph nodes will need to be removed.

Removing all of the breast tissue and most of the lymph nodes is called a modified radical mastectomy. Newer mastectomy techniques remove less tissue and fewer lymph nodes.

Other types of mastectomy include:

  • Total mastectomy.A total mastectomy, also known as a simple mastectomy, involves removal of the entire breast, including the breast tissue, areola and nipple. A sentinel lymph node biopsy may be done at the time of a total mastectomy.
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy.A skin-sparing mastectomy involves removal of all the breast tissue, nipple and areola, but not the breast skin. A sentinel lymph node biopsy also may be done. Breast reconstruction can be performed immediately after the mastectomy.

A skin-sparing mastectomy may not be suitable for larger tumors.

  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy.A nipple- or areola-sparing mastectomy involves removal of only breast tissue, sparing the skin, nipple and areola. A sentinel lymph node biopsy also may be done. Breast reconstruction is performed immediately afterward.

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