A mastectomy is a surgical procedure in which the breast is removed. The procedure is many hundreds of years old and it’s only became patient-centred and technically sophisticated during the 1970s. Recently, women who are given a mastectomy are also often offered immediate breast reconstruction so that they do not feel as if they have lost their breast. Over the past three decades, women having this type of surgery are more and more common. Indeed, in the 1980s, only 10% of mastectomy patients had immediate reconstruction and this stands at 90% now. In many cases, this surgery is also a nipple sparing mastectomy.
What Is the Nipple Sparing Mastectomy?
During a nipple sparing mastectomy, the surgeon believes that the skin of the areola and nipple can be preserved. It means that all the breast tissue is removed but the nipple and the areola, which is the dark skin around it, remains in place. Traditionally, during a mastectomy, almost all of the skin of the breast itself would be removed.
Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Benefits
There are numerous benefits to this type of procedure, one of the biggest obviously being cosmetic. Following this procedure, the breast looks almost exactly the way it did before and there will only be a tiny scar under the inframammary fold to provide evidence of the surgery having taken place at all. A lot of data also suggests that women who have the nipple sparing mastectomy have greater self-esteem and a far improved body image. Surgeons are now able to reconstruct the nipple as well but these tend to lose projection with age and will never be able to replace the real deal.
Sensation and the Nipple Sparing Mastectomy
After a nipple sparing mastectomy, most women do continue to have sensation in their nipples. Indeed, depending on which study is referenced, between 30% and 60% of women retain or regain their sensation. However, it will never be exactly the same as before. Dulling, and even significant dulling, is to be expected but most women will be able to have at least some Sensation as well as erectile function.
Can it Treat and Prevent Breast Cancer?
The most important question is whether or not the nipple sparing mastectomy is effective. At the end of the day, a mastectomy is offered to women who have breast cancer in an effort to remove the tumor and prevent it from returning. Not all women will find that the nipple sparing mastectomy is right for them and not all forms of breast cancer will respond to it appropriately. Hence, it must be offered only to the right candidates. The right candidate for a nipple sparing mastectomy is a woman who:
- Has a small tumor.
- Has a tumour on the periphery of her breast.
- Does not have an aggressive tumor.
- Has smaller breasts.
- Does not experience a lot of ptosis, which is drooping of the breast.
A physician will discuss the possibilities of this procedure with their patients so that they can make an informed decision on whether or not to have it.