What is Breast mastectomy?

A breast mastectomy is a surgery that removes the breast tissue from the breast. The procedure removes healthy tissue along with the parts affected by cancer. In some instances, both breasts are removed. Such cases are called double mastectomies. Many women have breast reconstruction to rebuild the breast after a mastectomy. Only high-risk patients have this type of surgery.

Mastectomies are performed as a means of treatment and prevention. The complete removal of the breast removes all existing cancerous tissue. Since there is no breast to return to, the recurrence of breast cancer is eliminated by a mastectomy.

It’s important to remember that not all women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer will actually develop it. Some women who choose to have risk-reducing breast surgery may never have developed breast cancer anyway. However, there is currently no way of knowing whether an individual woman will develop breast cancer or not. For some women, risk-reducing breast surgery helps relieve their anxiety and lessen their fears about developing breast cancer.

It’s impossible for surgeons to remove every single breast cell during a mastectomy. Usually about 95% of the breast tissue is removed. Because a small amount of the breast tissue is left behind after surgery, risk-reducing mastectomy won’t completely remove the risk of developing breast cancer.

Breast cancers in women who carry breast cancer gene changes/mutations usually occur at a younger age. So, the younger you are when you have risk-reducing surgery, the more likely it is to prevent breast cancer. However, this is a very individual decision and the potential benefit of risk-reducing surgery must be balanced with other issues such as:

(1) Your age and risk – your genetic counsellor or breast surgeon can advise you about how the risk level changes with age. They can give you an estimate of your chance of developing breast cancer over the next five years as well as your risk of developing breast cancer over your lifetime.

(2) How anxious you feel about the possibility of getting breast cancer and the impact it would have on your life.

(3) Your plans for having children and breastfeeding (breastfeeding may reduce your risk of breast cancer).

It’s important to bear in mind that the fitter you are, the less likely it is that there will be complications following surgery.
When to have this type of surgery is a very personal choice. Discussing the above points with your breast surgeon and clinical nurse specialist can help you make your decision....