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A mastectomy is a surgery that removes breast tissue. There are many different procedures, including:

  • Partial mastectomy or lumpectomy: a tumor and a small margin of surrounding breast tissue is removed
  • Simple mastectomy: the entire breast is removed
  • Modified radical mastectomy: entire breast and some lymph nodes in the armpit are removed, but chest muscles are left in place
  • Radical mastectomy: entire breast, lymph nodes, and chest muscle are removed (rarely done)

People of all genders may get this procedure to remove or prevent breast cancer.

Reasons for a Mastectomy

You may have a mastectomy to:

  • Treat breast cancer
  • Prevent breast cancer if you have a family history of the disease and are at very high risk for breast cancer (occasionally done)
  • Treat severe side effects from previous treatment for breast cancer (rarely done)

Top Surgery for Trans Men

We also perform mastectomies for transgender men. Some trans men want to have surgery to make their chest look and feel male. Learn more about our gender-affirming surgery options.

What to Expect

Prior to the procedure your doctor will perform a physical exam and order tests, including:

  • A mammogram: a test that uses low-dose X-rays to make a picture of breast tissue
  • Fine needle biopsy of the breast: a thin, hollow needle is used to remove a small tissue sample from the breast
  • Blood tests

During the procedure, your surgeon makes an oval-shaped incision in the breast and removes breast tissue, the nipple and areola. To do so, your surgeon cuts the tissue off of the underlying muscle. Your surgeon may need to remove nearby lymph nodes (toward the underarm). A tube drains blood and fluids from the area, and your surgeon closes the area with stitches.

The procedure takes about 1-3 hours and you can expect to stay in the hospital between 1-3 days.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.