For women diagnosed with breast cancer, or who have an elevated risk of developing breast cancer, mastectomy is one treatment option. Removing one or both breasts to eliminate cancerous tumors or to reduce cancer development tissue can increase the likelihood of survival from the disease, although many women struggle with the decision to have the surgery.
Some women opt for a less drastic lumpectomy, which only removes the cancerous tissue rather than the whole breast, due to concerns about their appearance post-surgery. Recently, though, the option of a nipple-sparing mastectomy has become increasingly attractive for both medical and aesthetic reasons.
At EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region, our Breast Care team understands that a breast cancer diagnosis can mean making some emotional decisions. We are here to help every step of the way, and our team of experienced physicians, nurses, and staff are committed to treating you as a person. Our partnership with North Carolina Specialty Hospital ensures you receive the highest quality care, efficiently and conveniently.
What is a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy?
Traditionally, a mastectomy involves removing all of the breast tissue; a radical mastectomy removes the entire breast along with the lymph nodes and some or all of the pectoral muscles, while a simple mastectomy typically only involves removing breast tissue.
In recent years, though, nipple-sparing mastectomies, also known as skin-sparing mastectomies, have become a viable option. These procedures remove breast tissue but leave behind the areola and nipple. The primary benefit of this approach is the ability to retain the appearance of the breasts. In most cases, breast reconstruction takes place during the same surgery as breast removal, and the result is a natural-looking breast (or breasts) with minimal scarring.
The Clinical Benefits of Skin Sparing Mastectomies
Mastectomy is considered a local treatment for breast cancer, meaning that it treats the disease at its source, rather than taking a systematic approach like chemotherapy. Although some women still require chemo post-surgery, research indicates that as many as 70% of women do not need chemotherapy post-mastectomy. Some women do need radiotherapy (also known as radiation therapy) after a mastectomy, but that’s more common with lumpectomies.
In fact, there is some evidence that a nipple-sparing mastectomy may be more effective than a lumpectomy. Not only is radiotherapy a must after a lumpectomy, but removing only some tissue can cause more scarring and change the shape of the breast. The procedure conserves more of the breast, but if the cancer isn’t completely removed or comes back, additional treatment is needed.
Choosing a nipple-sparing mastectomy may reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning. If it does return, radiotherapy is the most likely treatment. This type of surgery also eliminates the need for additional reconstructive surgery, since the tissue removal and reconstruction happen during the same procedure.
Additional Aesthetic Benefits
Many breast cancer patients choose nipple-sparing mastectomies for aesthetic reasons. Not only does retaining the nipple and areola allow for a more natural-looking breast, but reconstructive surgery allows for customization. Women can choose larger or smaller implants, or have a breast lift at the same time.
Who is a Candidate for a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy?
Although a skin-sparing mastectomy may be appealing to many women with breast cancer, it’s best suited to certain patients, including:
- Women with tumors that are not located directly under the nipple or in the tissue under the areola
- Women who have enough cancer-free tissue surrounding the tumor
- Women who do not have inflammatory breast cancer
- Women with breast cancer that does not involve the skin
- Women who are nonsmokers
The size and position of the breast or nipple are no longer factors in determining whether someone is a candidate for nipple-sparing surgery. Advances in technology and the use of living tissue in breast reconstruction make it possible to perform the procedure on any size of breasts, even if they have significant sagging.
Supporting Your Breast Health
If you are seeking exceptional breast cancer treatment in North Carolina’s Triangle region, look no further than EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region. Led by Dr. Kathryn Baerman, who has unparalleled expertise in both benign and malignant breast disease, our compassionate team of providers helps women of all ages with comprehensive treatment plans for all breast diseases. They are with you every step of the way and are committed to helping you Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
To learn more, self-schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.