Most breast cancer treatments require some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. Mastectomy refers to the surgical removal of the breast, but not necessarily the whole breast.
In the past, radical mastectomy was the most common treatment for breast cancer. The entire breast was removed during this procedure. Advancements in surgical techniques, and in our knowledge of breast cancer, now allow us to preserve healthy tissue in many patients.
Benefits of Mastectomy
One benefit to mastectomy is that it offers local control of breast cancer over systemic control. Local treatments target breast cancer cells in a particular area while systemic treatments target cancer cells throughout the body. If local control is successful, physicians can often minimize systemic treatments to reduce risk for side effects.
Mastectomy can also be performed as a preventative measure (“prophylactic mastectomy”). This is best reserved for women at high risk for developing breast cancer (based on genetics and family history) and can prevent breast cancer occurrence in the future. Women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, for example, may opt for prophylactic mastectomy.
Candidates for Mastectomy
Your physician may recommend a mastectomy depending on your individual diagnosis and personal desires. Mastectomy may be performed if:
- The tumor is very large.
- There is cancer recurrence after one or more lumpectomies.
- Patient has smaller breasts and little breast tissue would remain after a lumpectomy.
- There is cancer recurrence after radiation therapy.
Types of Mastectomy
Modern mastectomy attempts to remove cancer while preserving as much healthy breast tissue as possible.
- A partial mastectomy is the least invasive. A lumpectomy is technically a partial mastectomy.
- Nipple-sparing mastectomy preserves the nipple and skin, and removes breast tissue only.
- Skin-sparing mastectomy preserves the skin, but takes the breast-tissue and nipple-areola complex.
At Breastlink, our multidisciplinary team of radiologists, medical oncologists and oncologic and reconstructive breast surgeons will work with you to develop a treatment plan appropriate for your individual needs. Our goal is to provide care for the whole woman, rather than just treatment for the disease. To learn more, contact us.
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