When Mastectomy is Necessary

Female surgeon looking at results

When faced with early stage breast cancer, women generally have two surgical options. Lumpectomy, also known as breast-conserving surgery, removes the tumor and some surrounding tissue, but saves most of the breast. Mastectomy completely removes one or both breasts. Studies show that both lumpectomy and mastectomy provide the same long-term outcome.

Who should have a mastectomy?

For some women, mastectomy will be the recommendation based on the type of cancer and other factors, including:

  • Unable to have radiation therapy due to pregnancy or other reasons
  • Have had radiation in the past and the cancer returned
  • Previous lumpectomy with re-excision (surgical reopening to remove a margin)
  • Tumors larger than two inches across or large in relation to the size of your breast
  • Multiple tumors in different areas of the breast
  • Connective tissue disease, such as lupus
  • Inflammatory breast cancer, which includes swelling in place of tumors

Some women with a genetic factor, like the BRCA mutation, or a family history of breast cancer may elect to have a mastectomy since their risk of developing breast cancer is high. This procedure, known as prophylactic mastectomy, significantly reduces the risk.

Types of Mastectomy

Prior to surgery, your doctor will discuss the specific procedure for your unique situation. The most common mastectomy techniques, which may include lymph node dissection to determine if the cancer has spread, are:

  • Total (or simple) mastectomy: removal of entire breast.
  • Modified radical mastectomy: removal of all breast tissue and most lymph nodes.
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy: removal of the breast tissue, nipple, and areola, but not the skin.
  • Nipple-sparing mastectomy: removal of only the breast tissue.

Breast reconstruction is common question asked by women facing mastectomy. Whether or not to have reconstructive surgery should be discussed before your mastectomy, so the surgical team can plan accordingly.

If you have discovered any lumps during a self-exam or if you have any other concerns, contact your Capital Women’s Care provider to see about getting orders for a mammogram. Regular mammograms have proven to be the best safeguard for early detection of treatment of breast cancer.

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


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