Mastectomy | Types | MedStar Health

A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast, usually to treat serious breast disease, the most common of which is breast cancer. Several types exist:

Partial mastectomy/lumpectomy

This is the most common form of breast cancer surgery. It is a surgical procedure to remove a tumor from within your breast, as well as some tissue surrounding the tumor — it does not remove the entire breast, which it is why it is considered a breast-conserving or -preserving surgery.

The size of the breast will likely be a bit smaller after the procedure. If needed, MedStar Health plastic surgeons will use oncoplastic techniques to restore symmetry and reduce the other side to match. [Read more about reconstructive surgery.]

Following surgery, most women will have radiation therapy to reduce the risk of cancer returning. Chemotherapy, if needed, is initiated before the radiation treatment. Read more about radiation treatment.

Radical mastectomy

In a radical mastectomy, the chest wall muscles (pectorals) are removed, in addition to the breast and axillary lymph nodes. For many years, this operation was considered the standard for women with breast cancer, but it is rarely used today.

Modified radical mastectomy

The whole breast is removed, as are most of the axillary lymph nodes.

Skin sparing mastectomies

The breast, nipple, and areola are removed, but the outer layer of breast skin is left intact to make a breast reconstruction as natural looking as possible. Unless you do not want a breast reconstruction, you have inflammatory or locally advanced breast cancer, or your tumors are close to your outer breast skin, a skin sparing mastectomy is often a desirable option.

Studies have proven that this procedure is safe and does not increase the risk of recurrence. Our breast surgeons are leaders in the field and work closely with expert plastic surgeons that routinely perform breast reconstructions.

Subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy

The entire inside of the breast is removed, but all of the breast skin, including the nipple and areola, is left intact. This procedure is recommended when tumors are small and far from the nipple and areola areas — usually it works best for women with breasts that are A and B cup size.

Total (simple) mastectomy

The whole breast, including nipple and areola, is removed, but the axillary lymph nodes are not.

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Charles Padgett, MD, chief of medical oncology at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital discusses if a double mastectomy prevents a return of breast cancer.

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