Understanding Mastectomy

In response to a diagnosis of breast cancer, or as a means of prevention in a high-risk patient, surgery is often recommended. Depending on the size of the tumor and its location in the tissue, removal of the tumor and a small amount of surrounding healthy breast tissue may be advised. This is known as a lumpectomy, and it typically allows the retention of the breast’s natural appearance and shape. Another surgical option, which involves the removal of all breast tissue (the entire breast), is the mastectomy.

What Are Some Types of Mastectomy?

An individual’s specific diagnosis will determine which procedure is appropriate. A person might need to have a mastectomy in which one breast is removed; this is a unilateral mastectomy. Another person may require a mastectomy in which both breasts are removed; this is a bilateral mastectomy.

In some cases, a bilateral mastectomy will be performed because a person has a very high risk of developing breast cancer in the future; such a procedure is known as a prophylactic or preventive mastectomy. To determine whether this type of surgery is necessary, the presence of a strong family history of breast cancer or the existence of specific genetic mutations that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer are considered.

What if Additional Treatment is Needed?

Approximately one to two weeks after the procedure, a pathology report is available; its results can be explained to the patient at a follow-up visit. Depending on the outcome of the mastectomy, referrals for additional treatment may be necessary.

The patient might be referred to a medical oncologist to explore further treatment options; a radiation oncologist to discuss the possibility of radiation treatment; a support group or counselor to offer support with the diagnosis and the outcome of the surgery; or a plastic surgeon to discuss breast reconstruction. In some cases, post mastectomy reconstruction princeton NJ may be performed immediately after the mastectomy.

Learning about the options related to surgery and reconstruction may seem overwhelming. Having options, however, means there is the ability to create an effective, individualized treatment plan.

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