Skin-sparing mastectomy is a technique that preserves as much of the breast skin as possible for reconstruction purposes. Skin-sparing mastectomy can be performed as a total mastectomy (just the breast tissue), breast tissue plus sentinel lymph node biopsy, or as a modified radical mastectomy (breast tissue plus axillary lymph node dissection) to provide the skin needed for immediate reconstruction.
During skin-sparing mastectomy, the surgeon removes only the skin of the nipple and areola. Then the surgeon removes the breast tissue through the small opening that is created. The remaining pouch of skin provides the best shape and form to accommodate an implant or a reconstruction using your own tissue. Many women choose this type of mastectomy in order to get the most realistic and pleasing results from breast reconstruction.
Most women are eligible for skin-sparing mastectomies. However, there are some exceptions:
- A skin-sparing mastectomy is not usually performed if you’ve decided that you will not have immediate breast reconstruction.
- A skin-sparing mastectomy is not safe if there is a possibility that tumor cells are close to the skin. If there's any question that the tumor may involve the skin, such as in inflammatory breast cancer, then skin-sparing mastectomy is not an option.
Women who are smokers have an increased risk of complications with any form of mastectomy or reconstruction.