Updated April 16, 2014
A mastectomy is the surgical removal of a breast.
The vast majority of mastectomies are performed on women as a breast cancer treatment, although men may develop breast cancer and require the procedure, too. In some cases, a lumpectomy may be another surgical treatment option for these patients. Those with more extensive breast cancer may require a bilateral mastectomy, which is the removal of some or all of the tissue in both breasts.
Some men with a condition called gynecomastia, in which the breast tissue becomes overdeveloped, opt for a mastectomy for cosmetic purposes.
There are several types of mastectomies. The decision of what type of mastectomy should be done should be made with the assistance of the surgeon performing the mastectomy, the oncologist and the plastic surgeon performing the reconstruction. Some techniques may not be able to be considered, depending upon the location and severity of the cancer. The emotional needs of the patient must also be weighed.
The decision to have breast reconstruction surgery should be made before the mastectomy surgery is done. The reconstruction may be able to be done right after the mastectomy or at a later date.
The surgery is done under general anesthesia and typically lasts 2 to 3 hours, although it may take longer if a procedure to remove the lymph nodes is planned or reconstructive surgery is being performed immediately after the mastectomy.
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