Mastectomy

At Providence, we understand the challenges you face with breast cancer. Our teams of highly-trained breast surgeons and caregivers work tirelessly to provide you with the most comfortable, careful and precise breast cancer surgeries. We help you regain control of your life.

Used for treating malignant tumors and breast cancer, a mastectomy is the surgical removal of breast tissue. A mastectomy procedure can remove the breast completely or partially. When only a portion of the breast is removed, the procedure is known as a lumpectomy.

There are several different types of mastectomy procedures depending on a patient’s breast health needs. For instance, some patients’ cancer may be prone to spreading, in which case lymph nodes are removed in addition to the breast. In most cases a mastectomy will mean that no radiation therapy is needed to remove cancer cells.

  • Total Mastectomy - Also referred to as a simple mastectomy, this is the surgical removal of the breast, the nipple and most of the overlying skin. The adjacent lymph nodes and chest muscles are left intact. If a few lymph nodes are removed, the procedure is called an extended simple mastectomy.
  • Skin-sparing Mastectomy - A skin-sparing mastectomy removes the breast tissue and nipple but leaves most of the overlying skin in place. Since the natural skin folds are left in place, the breast has a more natural look post-operation.
  • Nipple-sparing Mastectomy - The breast tissue is removed but the overlying skin and nipple and areola are left in place. While the patient's breast skin, areola and nipple remain, possible loss of sensation can occur. An advantage of this procedure is that the breast remains more cosmetically attractive.
  • Radical Mastectomy - A radical mastectomy combines a mastectomy with an axillary node dissection. This procedure removes part of the chest wall along with the breast, but thanks to advancements in breast health, is rarely required.
  • Modified Radical Mastectomy - In addition to the mastectomy, this procedure removes most of the lymph nodes in the axilla (the region under your arm behind the breast).

Whether or not you can undergo a mastectomy depends on many factors including the size of your tumor, the size of your breast, the number of sites of cancer within the breast, and whether you can undergo subsequent radiation treatments. At Providence, we’re devoted to ensuring you receive the correct and proper treatment for your breast cancer needs.

No two cancer patients are alike, so we make sure to provide customized and personalized care. When it comes to a mastectomy, your doctor will recommend one of a variety of options for your individual breast care needs.

The operation is performed as an inpatient surgical procedure and administered under general anesthesia. Most mastectomy patients stay in the hospital for up to three days, depending on whether you choose to have breast reconstruction along with your surgery.

During the procedure, your surgeon will make a small oval-shaped incision directly over the nipple. The surgeon then removes the breast tissue by separating it from the surrounding skin. This is done carefully and thoroughly, and often takes two to three hours.

Towards the end of the procedure, your breast surgeon reviews the breast area and checks for any abnormalities and bleeding. Your surgical team will also drain any excess fluid from the breast and surrounding area. Once the fluid is drained, your surgeon closes the incision and wraps your chest in a large bandage to help healing.

As with any surgical procedure, the mastectomy carries certain risks. These include bleeding, infection of the incision, minor pain and tenderness, slight swelling and a change in the appearance of the breast. Our team of surgeons, breast-imaging specialists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists work together to ensure optimal outcomes for women who choose this treatment.

Depending on the stage and/or characteristics of the breast cancer or even patient age, some women are advised to undergo radiation therapy after mastectomy.

A patient who undergoes a mastectomy must decide whether she wants the breast to be reconstructed, and which type of reconstruction will work best for her. Breast reconstruction can be performed safely often during the mastectomy, or as a second procedure at any time following a mastectomy (even years later). If you’re considering breast reconstruction, be sure to tell your surgeons this prior to scheduling surgery.