Mastectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, either partially or completely. Mastectomy is usually done to treat breast cancer in both men and women. In some cases, women and some men believed to be at high risk of breast cancer may choose to have the operation prophylactically. That is, to prevent cancer rather than treat it.
Alternatively, certain patients can choose to have a wide local excision, or lumpectomy, a procedure in which a small amount of healthy breast tissue surrounding the tumor is removed along with the tumor, conserving the breast.
Both mastectomy and lumpectomy are what are referred to as local therapies for breast cancer, that is they target the area of the tumor as opposed to systemic therapies such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or immunotherapy that target the entire body.
Traditionally, in cases of breast cancer, the entire breast was removed. Today, thanks to to advances in diagnostic and surgical techniques, there are other options. Factors that influence the decision to perform a mastectomy include: breast size, number of lesions, biologic aggressiveness of a breast cancer, the availability of adjuvant radiation, and patient attitudes.
Clinical studies have suggested that routine radical mastectomy surgery does not always prevent later distant secondary tumors arising from micro-metastases prior to discovery, diagnosis, and surgery.