Mastectomy – An Overview

October 12, 2017     

Kill Cancer with Kindness

Who doesn’t know Angelina Jolie? Known for her films and other social work, she is breathtakingly beautiful, with a figure to die for. But, did you know that she had both her breasts removed?


Jolie had said in an interview that her decision of undergoing mastectomy (breast removal) was not easy but made her happy in the end. Her chances of developing breast cancer had dropped from 87% to less than 5%.


Mastectomy by definition is the surgical procedure of removing one or both breasts partially or completely. Most people go through this procedure to treat themselves of breast cancer. Many a times it may happen that if a person knows that he or she is at a high risk of getting breast cancer, mastectomy is a boon for them so that ultimately prevention can be better than the cure.

Mastectomy is referred to as the ‘local therapy’ for treating breast cancer as it targets the area of the tumour as opposed to Chemotherapy which is a systemic therapy. Traditionally or a few years back, if a person was diagnosed with breast cancer, the whole breast was removed. With light of recent findings mastectomy is done based on varied list of factors such as breast size, number of lesions and biological aggressiveness of a breast cancer to name a few.

A breast cancer mastectomy is performed under a general anesthesia so there is external pain involved and the patient is asleep during the surgery. The surgeon removes all the breast tissue including the nipple and areola. The surgeon then closes the wound with stitches and attaches a tube so the fluid from the wound can flow out.

There are various kinds of mastectomy:

  1. Simple or Total Mastectomy – This type of mastectomy involves removal of the entire breast. The surgeon does not remove the lymph nodes in the underarm area. No muscle is removed from the under the breast. It is done mainly for women who are seeking to prevent any possibility of breast cancer.
  2. Modified Radical Mastectomy – Modified Radical Mastectomy includes surgically removing both the breast tissue and the lymph nodes but no muscles are removed in the surgery. Most people with invasive breast cancer opt for this type of mastectomy so that the lymph nodes can be examined by the surgeon so that it can be easier to know if the cancer cells has spread to other parts of the body.
  3. Radical Mastectomy – Radical mastectomy is the most extensive type of mastectomy. In this procedure the doctor removes the entire breast, the lymph nodes as well as the chest wall muscles under the breast. Radical mastectomy is only recommended when the cancer has spread to the chest muscles under the breast.
  4. Partial Mastectomy – Partial mastectomy involves the surgical removal of the cancerous part of the breast tissue and also some normal tissue around it.
  5. Nipple Sparing Mastectomy – Nipple sparing mastectomy includes the removal of the entire breast tissue but the nipple is left.

Nipple Sparing Mastectomy

Hence just like everything other surgical procedure has risks, mastectomy does too but if done under a doctor with the kind of expertise or a hospital, the risks of breast cancer can be minimised to a great extent.


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