A mastectomy means removal of the entire breast, breast tissue, and nipple. A sentinel lymph node or axillary node dissection will also be performed as discussed on previous pages. However, the lymph nodes may be sampled through the same incision made for the mastectomy.

Mastectomies now no longer include removal of underlying chest muscle unless the cancer involves these tissues. If known prior to surgery, neoadjuvant therapy (before surgery) is used to shrink the tumor so that it can be completely removed with the least amount of disability. Large cancers involving skin or inflammation breast cancers are also treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy before surgery to increase the ability of complete removal of cancer with ability to close wound. The shape of incision used may be determined by if and what type of reconstruction is to be used.

Reconstruction for mastectomy due to breast cancer is legally required to be covered by insurance. Everyone is a candidate for some kind of reconstruction, if desired. The best choice for you, your lifestyle, expectations, and body shape/size will be discussed you by a plastic surgeon.
Please ask for a plastics consult if there is any desire to investigate options. Reconstruction may be immediate or delayed depending on each patientís individual cancer treatment regimen that is planned.