Mastectomy may be a better choice than breast-conserving surgery depending on the size of the tumor or if you have two or more tumors that are too far apart. Radiation therapy is not always needed after mastectomy, so mastectomy can be a good choice if you don't want to have radiation or if you cannot have radiation treatment.
Some women choose to have breast reconstruction either at the same time as mastectomy or later on. Before you have your mastectomy, talk to your doctor about reconstruction to decide whether this added procedure is right for you.
Prophylactic or preventive mastectomy: Some women who know that they are at very high risk for breast cancer, but do not have breast cancer, choose to have a mastectomy on both breasts. This is called prophylactic mastectomy. Removing the breasts can greatly lower the risk for breast cancer, but it cannot completely prevent breast cancer. A few women still get breast cancer, because tiny bits of breast tissue may remain in the skin or underarm after surgery. But it is not yet known whether this surgery is better than having careful screening and then early treatment of any breast cancer that may develop. Prophylactic mastectomy is also an option for a woman who has cancer in one breast. At the time of cancer surgery, some women also have the other breast removed.
Some women who are at high risk for breast cancer may have their ovaries removed after they are done having children, or after age 35. Removing the ovaries has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 50%.
If you are thinking of having a prophylactic mastectomy, learn as much as you can about it from your doctors. See if you can also talk to other women who have had this surgery. Carefully consider how you feel about the benefits and changes, both physical and emotional.
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