Mastectomy Breast Surgery


Finding out you have breast cancer is frightening. And learning you may need a mastectomy can be especially alarming.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the idea of losing your breast. But mastectomies save lives. And with Mercy by your side, you’ll find the support and encouragement you need to face the journey ahead.

What is a Mastectomy?

Mastectomy is the medical term for surgery to remove an entire breast. There are several different kinds of mastectomy. Each uses different surgical techniques, and removes different amounts of breast tissue:

  • Simple (total) mastectomy removes the entire breast, including the nipple, areola and skin.
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy removes the breast tissue, nipple and areola. But, it leaves most of the skin covering your breast in place.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy is a type of skin-sparing mastectomy. Your surgeon will remove the breast tissue, but leave your skin and nipple intact.
  • Modified radical mastectomy is similar to simple mastectomy. Your surgeon will remove your entire breast, including the nipple, areola and skin. He or she will also remove lymph nodes under your arm.
  • Radical mastectomy is the most extensive type of mastectomy. Your surgeon will remove the entire breast, plus the muscles underneath your breast and lymph nodes under your arm.
  • Double (bilateral) mastectomy removes both breasts.
  • Preventive mastectomy removes both breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Most women who choose this procedure are considered very high-risk for breast cancer. They may carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation or have other factors that increase their risk.

If your breast cancer was caught early, you may be able to choose between mastectomy and lumpectomy. Your doctor will let you know if this is an option, and help you make an informed choice.

What to Expect from a Mastectomy

Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after mastectomy surgery. We’ll also help you make certain treatment decisions. For example:

  • After mastectomy, some women choose to rebuild their breast(s) by having breast reconstruction surgery. Some prefer to wear a breast prosthesis instead of having surgery. Others are comfortable with their new appearance, and choose not to have surgery or wear a prosthesis.
  • If you’re considering breast reconstruction, you’ll meet with a Mercy plastic surgeon before your mastectomy. He or she will explain your options, including techniques and timing. Some patients can have breast reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy. Others need (or decide) to schedule it for a later date.
  • Some patients need extra cancer treatments after mastectomy. These may include hormone therapy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Your doctor will help you understand what to expect from these treatments.

Coming to terms with your mastectomy can be difficult. But Mercy will provide the care and expertise you need to overcome your fears — and your cancer.

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