A prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery to remove one or both breasts. Your healthcare provider may recommend this operation if you have a high risk of developing breast cancer. If you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene change (mutation), this surgery can significantly decrease your risk of breast cancer.
Prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery to remove one or both breasts. It reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.
Your healthcare provider may recommend a prophylactic mastectomy if you have a high risk of developing breast cancer. Other names for prophylactic mastectomy include preventative mastectomy or risk-reducing mastectomy.
You may choose to have a preventative mastectomy if you have risk factors for developing breast cancer, such as:
Healthcare providers use prophylactic mastectomies to reduce breast cancer risk. A prophylactic mastectomy can decrease the risk of developing breast cancer by:
There are several types of prophylactic mastectomy:
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Your healthcare provider will give you instructions to prepare for a prophylactic mastectomy. You usually don’t need to do anything different than usual.
On the day of surgery, you change into a hospital gown. Then, a healthcare provider attaches an intravenous (IV) line to your hand or arm. The IV contains medication (anesthesia) so you relax and remain asleep during the procedure. You're then brought to the operating room for your procedure.
During a prophylactic mastectomy, a breast surgeon:
A prophylactic mastectomy usually takes around two to three hours. Surgery will last longer if you’re having breast reconstruction at the same time.
You may stay in the hospital overnight after a prophylactic mastectomy. Your exact length of stay depends on several factors, including your overall health and whether you also had a reconstruction.
After surgery, a healthcare provider will teach you exercises to decrease stiffness in your arms or shoulders. These exercises reduce how much scar tissue forms. Your surgical team gives you instructions to care for yourself at home before you leave the hospital.
If you have multiple breast cancer risk factors, a prophylactic mastectomy significantly reduces your risk of developing breast cancer.
However, prophylactic mastectomy doesn’t benefit people with an average risk of developing breast cancer. The pros and cons of a prophylactic mastectomy vary depending on your personal risk profile.
A prophylactic mastectomy has the risk of:
There’s also a risk of dissatisfaction with your body’s appearance after surgery. You may struggle with the psychological effects of losing one or both breasts.
Speak with a psychologist or other mental health provider if you have anxiety or concern about your body image. These professionals can help you cope with difficult emotions through healthy means, such as journaling, meditating or joining a support group.
Recovery time after a mastectomy varies. Initial recovery takes about three to four weeks on average. Recovery may take up to eight weeks if you also had a breast reconstruction. It may be several months before you can resume all your usual activities.
Call your healthcare provider after a prophylactic mastectomy if you experience:
Your chest and arms may feel painful for several weeks after a prophylactic mastectomy. Usually, you can manage pain with over-the-counter medicines. Call your healthcare provider if the pain worsens or doesn’t get better after a few weeks.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A prophylactic mastectomy is a surgery to reduce your risk of breast cancer. You might be a candidate for the procedure if you have a high risk of breast cancer, such as a gene mutation or family history. During a prophylactic mastectomy, your surgeon removes one or both breasts. You may also have breast reconstruction using implants or your own tissue.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2022.
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