A mastectomy is a surgical procedure commonly used as a treatment or prevention for breast cancer. There are different types of mastectomy, and depending which is done, a part or all of the breast is removed. About 55% of all women in the United States who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has undergone a mastectomy. Depending on the severity of the cancer and other health conditions, a mastectomy can really help with fighting breast cancer and letting the patient go into remission. It also helps to prevent the cancer from spreading to other areas in the body.
There are actually a few different types of mastectomy, each designed to treat different breast cancer stages. Below are three of the most common mastectomy: partial, total, and preventative mastectomy.
Like the name suggests, a partial mastectomy is a procedure that removes only a part of the breast. Often times, a partial mastectomy will leave the nipple and the skin around the breast untouched. This is a common course of treatment for people who are in very early stages of breast cancer.
Partial Mastectomy can be further split into two different procedures: a lumpectomy and a quadrantectomy. In a lumpectomy, surgeons will only remove the cancerous tumor and a little of the healthy tissue around the tumor. In a quadrantectomy, the tumor is removed as well, but a lot more healthy tissue around the tumor is removed too.
Most patients who undergo a partial mastectomy will also need radiation therapy in order to further prevent the cancer cells from spreading and to destroy any potential cancer cells that survived the mastectomy. Sometimes, another surgery may be needed if the radiation therapy is ineffective in treating the cancer.
Also known as a simple mastectomy, a total mastectomy involves the removal of all breast tissues, including healthy tissues. Doctors may also remove the lymph nodes near the breast during this procedure. Additionally, the chest muscles around the lymph nodes may be removed as well. Unlike the partial mastectomy, the nipple cannot be saved during a total mastectomy.
A total mastectomy is now becoming rarer. However, the procedure is still done if the cancer cells have begun to get into lymph nodes and the surrounding muscles. This helps to prevent the cancer cells from spreading further throughout the body.
This procedure is typically done on patients that have a higher risk of developing breast cancer when compared to others. Although a preventative mastectomy can sound like a very extreme measure taken to lower the risk of developing breast cancer, it is actually extremely effective. In fact, preventative mastectomy can lower breast cancer risk by as much as 90% in most people.
However, it should still be noted that preventative mastectomy does not 100% guarantee that the patient will never develop breast cancer.Preventative is similar to total mastectomy — all breast tissues are removed (including healthy ones) and the nipple typically cannot be saved.
Below are some factors that may make doctors recommend a preventative mastectomy for the patient:
- Cancer in One Breast
Doctors may suggest a preventative mastectomy for those who have already got cancer in one breast. Instead of only removing the breast that has cancer, the healthy breast is also removed to prevent the cancer from spreading further.
- Family History
A preventative mastectomy may be done on those who have a long history of family members developing breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. While this may not totally prevent breast cancer in the patient, the mastectomy is still a pretty good prevention strategy. This is particularly true if the patient has family members that developed breast and/or ovarian cancer before 50 years old.
- Gene Abnormalities
Some people may have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These mutations dramatically increase the chances of developing breast cancer. As such, doctors highly recommend people who carry these mutations in their genes to undergo a preventative mastectomy. Biological females who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are more likely to carry these mutations when compared to other ethnicities.
- Dense Breast Tissue
Not only are those who have denser breast tissue more likely to develop breast cancer, it is harder to diagnose breast cancer in people who have denser breast tissue. As such, doctors may recommend preventative mastectomy these people.
- Radiation Exposure
Those who have been exposed to radiation for a prolonged period between 10 to 30 years old have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. As such, doctors could suggest preventative mastectomy for these people. Radiation exposure may be due to environmental factors, nuclear disasters, and/or radiation therapy, which is a treatment for all different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
Featured Image: Depositphotos/© SimpleFoto