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Should You Consider a Clinical Trial?

If you’re interested in a clinical trial related to cancer, consider the following information.

What is a mastectomy?

Group of Women Wearing Pink

A mastectomy is the surgical removal of part or the entire breast. Doctors most commonly perform a mastectomy to treat or prevent breast cancer in women. A mastectomy may also involve removing lymph nodes in the underarm and other tissues near the breast, such as chest muscle. Your surgeon may perform breast reconstruction surgery at the same time of your mastectomy or in a second surgery. 

Other treatments that may be recommended with a mastectomy include radiation treatment, hormone treatment, and/or chemotherapy. 

Mastectomy is a common but major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a mastectomy. 

Types of mastectomy

The type of mastectomy you receive depends on the stage and type of your breast cancer. The greater the spread of cancer cells, the more breast and nearby tissue your surgeon will remove. The types of mastectomy procedures include:

  • Partial mastectomy, also called a lumpectomy or segmental mastectomy, is a procedure to remove the cancerous breast tissue. Your surgeon will also remove a small area of normal breast tissue around the cancer. This conserves as much breast tissue as possible.

  • Subcutaneous mastectomy, also called nipple-sparing mastectomy, is surgery to remove all or most of the breast tissue under the skin. This surgery leaves the nipple, areola, underarm lymph nodes, and chest muscle intact.

  • Simple mastectomy, also called total mastectomy, is the removal of the entire breast. This includes the breast tissue, nipple, areola, and skin. This surgery leaves the underarm lymph nodes and chest muscle intact. Your surgeon may also take a sample (tissue biopsy) of the nearby lymph nodes to test them for the spread of cancer.

  • Modified radical mastectomy is surgery to remove the entire breast. This includes the breast tissue, nipple, areola, skin and the underarm lymph nodes.

  • Radical mastectomy is the most extensive mastectomy procedure. Radical mastectomy removes the entire breast, including breast tissue, nipple, areola, and skin. Your surgeon will also remove your underarm lymph nodes and all of the chest wall muscles under the breast.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 9, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Breast Cancer Treatment Option Overview. National Cancer Institute. Accessed August 18, 2011.,Mastectomy. Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
  2. Preventive Mastectomy. National Cancer Institute.
  3. What is Mastectomy?

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