Mastectomy is surgery to remove the breast. It is the most common treatment for breast cancer. There are several types of mastectomy; each removes a different amount of tissue. Most women have a modified radical mastectomy . During this operation, the doctor removes the breast, the lymph nodes under the arm, and the lining over the chest muscles. A pathologist checks the lymph nodes to see if they contain cancer cells. The NCI booklet Mastectomy: A Treatment for Breast Cancer provides more information about this treatment.
Many women who have a mastectomy choose to have breast reconstruction. For some women this can be done at the same time as the mastectomy. Some doctors prefer to wait 6 months or a year after surgery before doing reconstruction. You can decide about reconstruction months or even years after surgery. For more information about this procedure, you may want to read the NCI booklet Breast Reconstruction: A Matter of Choice .