Mastectomy is surgery procedure to remove all breast tissue from a breast as a way to treat or prevent breast cancer.

Simple or total mastectomy: removal of the breast, with its skin and nipple, but no lymph nodes. In some cases, a separate sentinel node biopsy is performed to remove only the first one to three axillary (armpit) lymph nodes.

Modified radical mastectomy: removal of the entire breast, nipple/areolar region, and often the axillary lymph nodes. This is the most common form of mastectomy performed today.

Partial or segmental mastectomy: removal of a portion of the breast tissue and a margin of normal breast tissue. This procedure usually involves removing less tissue than a quandrantectomy but more than a lumpectomy or wide excision.

Radical mastectomy: removal of the entire breast, nipple/areolar region, the pectoral (chest) major and minor muscles, and lymph nodes. This procedure is rarely performed today.

Quandrantectomy: removal of a quarter of the breast, including the skin and breast fascia (connective tissues). The surgeon may also perform a separate procedure to remove some or all of the axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, either an axillary node dissection or a sentinel node biopsy.

Lumpectomy or wide excision: removal of the breast cancer tumor and a surrounding margin of normal breast tissue.

Excisional biopsy also the removal of the breast tumor and a surrounding margin of normal breast tissue. Sometimes further surgery is not needed if an excisional biopsy successfully removes the entire breast cancer tumor. This is most likely to occur if the breast tumor is very small. An excisional biopsy may be performed with “needle” or “wire” localization.

The operational procedure starts with general anesthesia. It will depend on the type of breast removal you’re having, normally takes 1-2 hrs. If you’re having a simple breast removal, your surgeon will make a diagonal or horizontal cut across your breast, and remove the breast tissue. Your surgeon may do a sentinel lymph node biopsy and remove lymph nodes from under your armpit through the same cut. A breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as your breast removal or at a later date, or not at all. When the operation is complete, the cuts are closed with stitches (which may be dissolvable).Fine plastic tubes may be left in your breast area for up to 48 hours afterwards. These allow blood and fluids to drain into a bag.

Risks involved in the mastectomy are:

  • fluid collecting under the scar
  • scar tissue formation
  • increased risk of infection in the surgical area
  • delayed wound healing
  • extra sensitivity to touch within the area surgery

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