Mastectomy removes the whole breast. There are multiple types of mastectomy. The two most common types of mastectomy are simple (total) mastectomy and modified radical mastectomy. A simple mastectomy removes just the breast. When the lymph nodes underneath the arm (called the axillary lymph nodes) are removed in addition to the breast, it is called a modified radical mastectomy.

Side Effects of Breast Surgery

As with any treatment, side effects are always a possibility. Possible side effects for breast surgery include

  • Swelling and tenderness of the breast
  • Pain
  • Change in the shape of the breast(s)
  • Wound infection
  • Build-up of blood or clear fluid in the wound
  • Lymphedema (swelling of the arm or chest as a result of having the axillary lymph nodes removed)

Women with early stage breast cancer who choose to have a mastectomy have a 2% to 5% chance of the cancer recurring, whereas women who opt to have breast-conserving surgery and radiation treatment have a 10% to 15% chance of the cancer recurring. There is no difference in terms of survival.