What is a mastectomy?
A mastectomy is a procedure in which a breast, or part of a breast, is removed for the treatment or prevention of breast cancer. There are various types of mastectomy. In some cases one or both breasts may be removed, while in other cases only the tumour and surrounding tissue is removed. Sometimes, the procedure may include the removal of lymph nodes in the armpits, depending on the extent and type of the cancer.
How does it work?
- Modified radical mastectomy
During this procedure, the entire breast is removed, including all breast tissue, nipple and the lymph nodes in the armpit.
- Simple mastectomy
During this procedure, the entire breast is removed, including the breast tissue and nipple. Lymph nodes may not necessarily be removed, although a biopsy may be done for further testing.
- Skin-sparing mastectomy
This procedure involves the removal of the breast tissue and nipple, but the breast skin is left behind and can be reconstructed after the procedure.
- Nipple-sparing mastectomy
During this procedure, the breast tissue is removed, but the breast skin and nipple are left behind and can be reconstructed after the procedure.
All of these procedures are performed under general anaesthetic and are often followed by other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
During the procedure, the surgeon will make an incision in the breast and remove the relevant tissue. The breast tissue and lymph nodes will be taken for further testing in a laboratory. When the procedure is complete, the surgeon will stitch the incision closed. He may place a drain, which is a plastic tube, in the area from which the breast tissue was removed so that any accumulated fluids can drain out of the body. If this is necessary, the tubes are stitched into position and attached to a special drainage bag.