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What is a skin sparing mastectomy?

Dr. William L. Owens, MD
Vascular Surgeon

When a woman is diagnosed with a breast cancer, she is usually given options as to how she can be surgically treated for her disease. These options usually include lumpectomy with radiation, mastectomy alone, or mastectomy with plastic surgery reconstruction. If she chooses mastectomy with plastic surgery reconstruction, it is usually preferable to begin the reconstruction at the same time the breast is removed. The reconstruction involves placing either an implant, or tissue from other parts of the body, into the space where the breast is removed. When the surgeon removes the breast in anticipation of immediate reconstruction, he or she tries to leave as much of the skin envelope of the breast in place for the plastic surgeon to fill with the appropriate material. The surgeon thus "scoops" out the breast from beneath the skin, taking the breast and the nipple and the areola but leaving most of the skin. This would constitute a skin sparing mastectomy, where the skin is spared for the plastic surgeon. Sometimes even the nipple and areola can be saved, and this would be known as a nipple sparing mastectomy. 

During a skin-sparing mastectomy the patient's own skin is used for reconstruction of the breast.

Immediate reconstruction techniques following a mastectomy mean that a woman can have the breast reconstructed during the same surgery as the mastectomy. If the woman desires this and is a good candidate, doctors can do a skin-sparing mastectomy. Just the diseased breast tissue is removed. The breast skin in spared and sometimes also the nipple and areola.

Skin-sparing mastectomies allow the surgeons to remove the breast while maintaining the overlying skin. This procedure, when combined with immediate breast reconstruction, gives patients a more satisfying cosmetic result after mastectomy by preserving the shape of the breast. In addition, some patients are candidates for nipple-sparing mastectomy, which involves removing the breast while maintaining the overlying skin, nipple, and areola complex. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.