A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast. It is appropriate for breast cancer patients who have large cancers (greater than 40% of breast size), or multiple cancers spread throughout the breast. It may also be appropriate for women who have specific gene conditions that increase their breast cancer risk. In those cases, mastectomies are performed with the aim of preventing breast cancer.
Even when performed correctly, not all breast tissue can be removed through a mastectomy. Some breast tissue will always remain. Consequently, there remains a small risk of cancer developing within that tissue.
Example of a large breast cancer
Example of a simple mastectomy without reconstruction
Reconstruction is typically offered when discussing mastectomies. Techniques most commonly used to reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy are implants, latissimus dorsi flaps, and DIEP flaps. Where appropriate, a mastectomy may be performed in a way that leaves the nipple or the skin overlying the breast in place. These are known as nipple-sparing mastectomies and skin-sparing mastectomies respectively. Sparing the nipple or skin over the breast facilitates implant-based reconstruction.