COVID-19: For information related to COVID-19 (formerly referred to as “novel coronavirus"), visit

VCU Massey Cancer Center


Types of mastectomies

Mastectomy is a form of breast cancer treatment that removes the entire breast through surgery. It’s often done when a woman cannot be treated with breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy), which spares most of the breast, or if a woman chooses it for personal reasons.

There are several different types of mastectomies, based on how the surgery is done and how much tissue is removed.

Simple or total mastectomy

With a simple (or total) mastectomy, the entire breast, including the nipple, is removed with the exception of the lymph nodes and muscle tissues.

Double mastectomy

Both breasts are removed in a double mastectomy due to presence of breast cancer in both breasts or because of a high risk of the cancer spreading (metastasizing).

Skin-sparing mastectomy (SSM)

In a skin-sparing mastectomy, the breast tissue and a small portion of the breast skin – usually the nipple and the areola – are removed while the skin over the breast is left intact.


  • Remove all the known areas of breast tissue
  • Technically more straightforward


  • The defining landmark of the nipple and the areola is lost, but this can be reconstructed in the future.
  • The shape of the breast can be altered.

Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM)

In a nipple-sparing mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed and all of the breast skin – including the nipple and the areola – are remaining. If cancer is found under the nipple and areola, the nipple must be removed. 


  • All defining landmarks of the breast are spared.
  • Subjectively, the best aesthetic result


  • Small focus of breast tissue is left behind
  • Technically more difficult
  • May not be able to save nipple and areola completely – may require additional surgeries
  • May not be able to save the characteristics of the nipple and areola – loss of nipple projection, nipple or areola hypopigmentation

Skin-reducing mastectomy

In a skin-reducing mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed and a significant portion of the breast skin is removed and rearranged.

Who is this for?

  • Larger breasted women with breasts weighing more than 1000g (Currently the largest implant is 850cc; therefore, we have to reduce the skin envelope to match the breast size.)
  • Larger breasted women who would like to be smaller

Modified radical mastectomy

A modified radical mastectomy removes the entire breast and the lymph nodes under the arm.

Radical mastectomy

A radical mastectomy removes the entire breast, the lymph nodes under the arm and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast.

Make an appointment
When you are considering your breast surgical options, you will likely have many questions. We invite you to visit us so we can answer your questions in person. To schedule an appointment with Massey’s breast surgeons, please call us at (877) 4-MASSEY.

Find a Clinical Trial
View graphic version