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Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Become a Member
Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Membership Benefits
ACS
Breast Cancer Surgery

Mastectomy

Your surgeon will remove all the breast tissue. This may also include the overlying skin, the nipple and areola, and the lymph nodes. A drainage tube may come out of the wound site. See Your Surgical Drain. Recovery time varies from 2 to 6 weeks depending on the type of reconstruction performed. Reconstruction or breast prosthesis are options. See Breast Reconstruction.

Bilateral Mastectomy with Aesthetic Flat Closure.  Image Credit: Not Putting on a Shirt. Used with permission.
Bilateral Mastectomy with Aesthetic Flat Closure. Image Credit: Not Putting on a Shirt. Used with permission.

Types of Mastectomy

There are different types of mastectomies and the options depend on your cancer type.

Simple Total Mastectomy

Removes all breast tissue, including the nipple, areola, and some overlying skin. The muscle beneath the breast is not removed. You will have a scar across the site where the breast was removed.

Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

Removes all breast tissue but leaves as much healthy breast skin as possible. This procedure is done when the plan is for reconstruction of the breast, nipple, and areola. This option allows for more natural-looking reconstruction. 

Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

Removes all breast tissue but leaves the nipple, areola, and overlying skin. The incision from this surgery is usually placed in a skin fold or on the side of the breast. This option allows for more natural looking reconstruction. This is not recommended if the cancer includes the nipple or Paget's disease.

Modified Radical Mastectomy

Removes all breast tissue, including the nipple, areola, and axillary lymph nodes. The chest wall muscle is left intact.

Modified Radical Mastectomy
Modified Radical Mastectomy

Radical Mastectomy

A radical mastectomy removes all breast tissue, including the nipple, areola, axillary lymph nodes, skin, and the chest wall muscles under the breast. This is done when breast cancer has spread to the muscle beneath the breast.

Prophylactic Mastectomy

A prophylactic mastectomy removes all breast tissue before cancer has been found, reducing the chance of breast cancer. This is usually done when there is a strong family history of breast cancer or a cancer gene mutation.

Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy

Contralateral Prophylactic Mastectomy is the removal of the healthy breast in someone who has or has had breast cancer in the other breast. You may be offered this option if you have:

  • A gene mutation linked to breast cancer, including BRCA1, BRCA2, or PALB2
  • A strong family history of breast cancer in more than one first-degree relative, such as a mother, sister, or daughter

After a Mastectomy

  • There may be scarring, numbness, or change of sensation at and around the scar(s) or radiation areas
  • Bleeding
  • Infection (less than 4% risk for the average patient with no other health issues, following a simple complete mastectomy)71*
  • Pain at the breast site, chest wall, and arm pit
  • Burning or shooting nerve (neuropathic) pain in the chest wall, armpit, and/or arm; pain that does not decrease over time is called postmastectomy pain syndrome
  • Need for additional surgery due to a problem after the prior surgery (less than 5% for the average patient with no other health problems, following a simple complete mastectomy)71*

Ask your doctor about all your treatment options based on your reports. This will help you make the best treatment decisions to prevent recurrence. Multimodality treatment (a combination of treatments working together) may provide long-term disease control.

The ACS Surgical Risk Calculator estimates the risk of an unfavorable outcome. Data is from a large number of patients who had a surgical procedure similar to this one. If you are healthy with no health problems, your risks may be below average. If you smoke, are obese, or have other health conditions, then your risk may be higher. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor or health care provider. To check your risks, go to the ACS Risk Calculator.