You may have seen the news this morning that Angelina Jolie has taken the hugely brave step of having a double mastectomy after discovering she is a carrier of the BRCA1 gene. Angelina is currently healthy but lost her mum to breast cancer at the age of fifty nine. Angelina then discovered that she has an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and decided to take this news head on and protect herself by removing both breasts, thus removing the threat.
I applaud Angelina’s bravery; I would do exactly the same in her position. It’s an incredible decision to make, but as Angelina points out, it’s also very empowering, taking the threat and stopping it in its tracks. Any woman taking this huge step is a hero in my book!
I thought today would be an ideal day to look into mastectomies and I hope you find this blog post interesting and useful.
If you would like more information on BRCA1 please click: http://pennysophia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/gene-mutations-and-cancer.html
If you would like more information on cancer of the breast please click: http://pennysophia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/cancer-types-breast.html
What is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the removal of a whole breast. There are five different types of mastectomy:
Simple or Total Mastectomy - This concentrates on the breast tissue itself. The surgeon removes the entire breast but does not usually remove the lymph nodes located in the armpit (although this can happen occasionally if the lymph nodes are found in the breast tissue during the surgery). No muscles are removed from underneath the breast during this type of mastectomy.
A SIMPLE OR TOTAL MESTECTOMY IS USUALLY APPROPRIATE FOR WOMEN WITH LARGE AREAD OF DCIS OR MULTIPLE DCIS. IT IS USUALLY APPROPRIATE FOR WOMEN SEEKING PREVENTATIVE MASTECTOMIES.
Modified Radical Mastectomy – This involves removal of both the breast tissue and lymph nodes. The entire breast is removed by the surgeon and an axillary lymph node dissection is performed to remove level I and II of the lymph nodes in your armpit. No muscles from underneath the breast are removed.
PEOPLE WITH INVASIVE BREAST CANCER MAY HAVE A MODIFIED RADICAL MASTECTOMY SO THAT THEIR LYMPH NODES CAN BE EXAMINED AS THIS WILL ALLOW THE SPECIALIST TO DETERMINE IF THE CANCER HAS SPREAD BEYOND THE BREAST.
Radical Mastectomy – This is the most extensive type of mastectomy and involves removing the entire breast, level I, II and III of the armpit lymph nodes and the chest wall muscles found under the breast.
RADICAL MASECTOMIES ARE ONLY RECOMMENDED FOR PEOPLE WHOSE BREAST CANCER HAS SPREAD TO THE MUSCLES UNDER THE BREAST. THIS USED TO BE A VERY COMMON TYPE OF MASTECOMY BUT THE MODIFIED VERSION HAS PROVED TO BE JUST AS EFFECTIVE BUT FAR LESS DISFIGURING.
Partial Mastectomy – This involves removing the cancerous part of the breast tissue and normal margins of healthy tissue around it. This is kind of like a lumpectomy, although more tissue is removed.
Subcutaneous Mastectomy (Nipple Sparing) – This is seen as a controversial option by some specialists as all of the breast tissue is removed but the nipple is not touched and as some tissue could be left behind and develop into cancer. It can cause distortion or numbness in the nipple.
Reasons to Have a Mastectomy:
A mastectomy is a huge surgical procedure with lifelong repercussions so it isn’t for everyone. It could be the best way forward for you if you fit any of the following criteria:
*If your tumour is over 5cm
*If your breast is small and a lumpectomy would leave very little scar tissue
*If you have already undergone multiple lumpectomies to try and remove a tumour and have been unable to obtain clear margins.
*If a lumpectomy and radiation is not an option for you
*If you believe total removal of breast tissue would give you better peace of mind then a lumpectomy
Breast Reconstruction Surgery:
It may be possible for you to have your breasts reconstructed during the same surgical procedure as the mastectomy. This is known as immediate reconstruction. An advantage of this may be sparing yourself the trauma of having an empty space where your breast used to be. However, the decision to reconstruct your breast on top of having a mastectomy may be too much emotionally and physically so you may also wait months or years to have your reconstructive surgery.
There are many different techniques available for breast reconstruction, including inserting an implant or tissue from another body part.
You Are Not Alone:
Lots of women have been through this procedure, some for preventative reasons and others because they have had breast cancer. In recent years celebrities such as Sharon Osbourne, Michelle Heaton, Giuliana Rancic and Christina Applegate have all had mastectomies. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman; in fact it makes you a warrior and enables you to beat cancer at its own game.
Sending lots of love to any women considering a mastectomy, recovering from a mastectomy or living life to the full after a mastectomy, you are braver then you know!
For more information please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org