Surgery to remove the whole breast is called a mastectomy. You may be offered a mastectomy if:
- there is cancer in more than one area of the breast
- the cancer is large compared to the size of the breast
- you have had radiotherapy to the same breast before and so cannot have it again
- clear margins cannot be obtained after one or two breast conserving procedures.
You may decide that you would prefer to have a mastectomy rather than breast conserving surgery, particularly if you are unable to have radiotherapy. Some women choose to have a mastectomy even if the cancer is very small.
During a mastectomy, the nipple and some or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit closest to the affected breast are also usually removed. In some cases, the surgeon may be able to perform a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy. This means that more of the normal skin – with or without the nipple – is kept. This allows the surgeon to do an immediate breast reconstruction. The reconstruction may be done with either a temporary implant (tissue expander) or a permanent implant, or it may use tissue from another part of your body.
If you don’t have an immediate reconstruction, you can wear a soft breast form inside your bra while your surgical wound heals. After this time, you can be fitted for a permanent breast prosthesis.