Rhode Island Hospital
Providence, RI 02903
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The Miriam Hospital
164 Summit Avenue
Providence, RI 02906
During a mastectomy, a surgeon removes all breast tissue, including the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, skin, nipple and areola. A mastectomy is recommended when the tumor is large and cannot be removed with clean margins, or when cancer exists in multiple spots in the breast. For some women, it's appropriate to perform a modified radical mastectomy; during this surgery, the axillary lymph nodes under the arm also are removed. In rare cases, a radical mastectomy may be necessary; during this procedure, the chest muscles and lymph nodes are removed in addition to the breast.
One advantage of a mastectomy is that most people do not require radiation therapy after the surgery, unless the cancer is advanced or the individual is at high risk for recurrence. In addition, a mastectomy can produce better cosmetic results. If you have many groups of microcalcifications, or a large tumor and small breasts, a mastectomy may be the preferred choice.
The main disadvantage is obvious: you lose your entire breast. This can be very difficult emotionally. However, there are options to consider, such as wearing an artificial breast form or having breast reconstruction surgery.