Women’s Cancer Communication Project

Coordinated by the European Institute of Women’s Health


A mastectomy normally means that the whole breast must be removed. There are, however, 3 main types of mastectomy:

  • Simple or Total Mastectomy In this type of mastectomy the entire breast is removed. In some cases this is the only treatment needed. In other cases radiation therapy may follow. Sometimes a few lymph nodes may be removed.
  • Modified Radical Mastectomy In this operation the entire breast, the under arm lymph nodes and the lining over the chest muscles, but not the muscles themselves, are removed. If there is a possibility that the cancer may return, radiotherapy may also be necessary.
  • Radical Mastectomy This type of mastectomy is similar to the one above, but the chest muscles under the breast are also removed. This is the type of mastectomy chosen for those whose cancers are attached to the chest wall.

The type of mastectomy depends on the type of tumour, its size, and how fast it has spread, as well as the patient’s general health and well-being.



This process is generally used if it is necessary to remove the tissue surrounding the lump.

The whole part of the breast surrounding the lump must be removed, otherwise there is a risk of some cancerous tissue being left behind.

This process may be more noticeable than a lumpectomy, particularly in women with small breasts.


A lumpectomy is the removal of a breast lump. It is also called an open biopsy.

A breast lump may either be a cyst or a solid mass of tissue. Almost two-thirds of all breast lumps are benign but the chance of having a malignant lump is increased if the woman has reached her menopause.

A small cut is made over the lump and it is removed in one piece.

It is then sent immediately to the laboratory for examination.

The skin is then stitched back together again. This is only possible if the lump is detected at an early stage, before the cancer has spread.

If it is benign, then there will be no complications. If the lump is found after testing to be benign, then there will be no complications.

If the lump is malignant, then treatment will depend on the size and spread of the tumour.

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