Mastectomy is removal of the whole breast by the surgeon, usually because of breast cancer. There are different kinds of mastectomies, which are used for different situations. The basic types are:
- Simple or total mastectomy – Removal of the whole breast by the surgeon, without removing the lymph nodes under the arm, or the muscle tissue under the breast. (Lymph nodes are numerous small round, oval or bean-shaped bodies located along lymphatic vessels throughout the body, and the lymphatic vessels carry lymph, which is a clear fluid collected from the body tissues, into the blood system).
- Modified radical mastectomy – Removal of the whole breast by the surgeon, plus removal of some of the lymph nodes under the arm. This is the most common type of mastectomy done for women who decide to have the entire breast removed.
- Radical mastectomy – This lengthy procedure involves the surgeon removing the whole breast, the lymph nodes under the arm, and the chest muscled under the breast. Radical mastectomy is no longer common for two main reasons: 1. because of the change in physical appearance and side effects, and 2. because modified radical mastectomy has been proven to be as effective as radical mastectomy.
- Basic information about both lumpectomy and mastectomy, and choosing between them can be found in our Section on Breast Cancer.