A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast.

A simple mastectomy is the removal of all the breast tissue, including the skin and nipple area.

Examples of when a mastectomy may be recommended include:

  • breast cancer takes up a large area of the breast
  • there’s more than one area of cancer in the breast.

If your surgeon recommends a mastectomy they should explain why. It may also be your personal preference to have a mastectomy.


Breast reconstruction

If you’re going to have a mastectomy, your breast surgeon will discuss breast reconstruction with you.

If you’re going to have a breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate breast reconstruction), your breast surgeon may discuss other types of mastectomy. This will depend on your individual situation.

A skin-sparing mastectomy is removal of the breast and nipple area without removing much of the overlying skin of the breast.

A nipple-sparing mastectomy is removal of all the breast tissue, without removing much of the overlying skin and the nipple area of the breast.

The unaffected breast

Some women who are having a mastectomy wonder whether they should have their unaffected breast removed as well.

Evidence shows this is not usually necessary or recommended, unless someone has a higher risk of developing primary breast cancer in the other side. This might be the case if they have inherited an altered gene or have a strong family history of breast cancer.

Many women overestimate their risk of developing a new primary cancer in the other breast or mistakenly believe breast cancer can spread from one breast to the other, so it’s important to discuss your individual situation with your surgeon.

Prostheses, bras and clothing after a mastectomy

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Last reviewed: August 2016
Next planned review begins 2018

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