One of the surgical treatments for breast cancer is mastectomy. This procedure involves the surgical removal of the entire breast, including the nipple and areola.

Although lumpectomy is the preferred early stage breast cancer treatment Singapore continues to have high rates for mastectomy, based on a 2015 study. Among reasons that have been noted for the high rates of mastectomy Singapore researchers of this study list the following…

  • Women’s reluctance to undergo radiation treatment following lumpectomy or Wide Local Excision (WLE) of the breast due to the higher cost
  • Women’s inability to return to the hospital for the daily radiation treatments
  • Women have poor health insurance coverage that will not sustain the additional radiotherapy
  • Women’s belief that it is better to remove the diseased breast entirely rather than risk the possibility of recurrence.

Why Some Women Need Mastectomy and Others Do Not

While most breast surgeons prefer to perform lumpectomy in order to preserve the breast, mastectomy becomes the required procedure for the following reasons…

  • Tumour is large so that it occupies much of the breast volume
  • More than one area of the breast is involved, such as in locally advanced breast cancer
  • Diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer
  • Diagnosis of Paget’s disease of the breast
  • Presence of contraindications to radiation therapy following a lumpectomy
  • High risk of developing breast cancer due to a strong family history

Unlike lumpectomy, mastectomy assures of better clearance of cancer cells not only in the breast, but also in the lymph nodes where it is first likely to spread.

Types of Mastectomy

There are five types of mastectomy procedures. The surgeon will determine which procedure is best for the patient based upon a thorough assessment, including the stage of the breast cancer and/or the patient’s decision to have breast reconstruction surgery immediately after the mastectomy.

1. Total Mastectomy or Simple Mastectomy

This procedure involves the total removal of the breast, including the nipple, areola, and overlying skin.

2. Radical Mastectomy

This was originally the standard surgical procedure for breast cancer. It involves the removal of the breast, nipple, areola, overlying skin, axillary or armpit lymph nodes, and chest muscles. This surgery is now being performed only when biopsy has determined that there is spread of the breast cancer to the chest muscles.

3. Modified Radical Mastectomy

This procedure involves the removal of the whole breast, nipple, areola, overlying skin, the lining covering the chest muscles, and some of the axillary lymph nodes (particularly those in Level I and II).

4. Skin-Sparing Mastectomy

Like the abovementioned mastectomy procedure, this surgery also removes the breast, nipple, and areola. But it saves most of the overlying skin of the breast particularly for the breast reconstruction surgery to be done immediately after this procedure.

Special modifications are needed if breasts are very droopy or tumour involves the skin.

5. Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy

Also known as “total skin-sparing mastectomy”, this procedure involves removal of breast tissues, including the ducts going to the nipple and areola. The tissue beneath and around the nipple and areola are first checked for cancer by a pathologist. If no breast cancer cells are found in these tissues, the nipple and areola are spared.

All patients are advised to seek consultation with their breast surgeon to determine which type of mastectomy is best of their condition.