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Nipple Sparing Mastectomy: October 24, 2011

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, surgery is almost always inevitable.

“When you do surgery for breast cancer about 70 % of patients are treated with breast conservation and that’s where you remove the area of breast cancer traditionally called a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy,” says Dr. Lea Blackwell, a breast surgical oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

A typical procedure involves removing breast tissue, which includes the nipple. Now, there’s a new option for patients called nipple-sparing mastectomy.

“What we do is make an incision underneath the breast or inframammary crease, remove the breast underneath the skin envelope of the breast, keeping the nipple in place,” says Dr. Blackwell.

Breast surgery can be extremely overwhelming, and many women struggle, feeling like they’ve lost their femininity. Nipple sparing surgery provides them an emotional boost.

“After surgery the breast has been removed but they have a better cosmesis because they have the full envelope of the breast still intact,” says Dr. Blackwell.

There’s also a shorter recovery time and no need for the radiation treatment that comes with lumpectomies. But this surgery is not for everyone.

“I think women generally with smaller breasts rather than larger breasts would be better candidates for nipple sparing mastectomy,” says Dr. Blackwell.

Another factor is the proximity of the cancer to the nipple. Because each woman is different, it’s important for patients to discuss all breast reconstruction options with their doctor.

“We work on focusing on the fact that this is a fixable problem and we’re going to work as hard as we can to fix them,” says Dr. Blackwell.

And leave them with as beautiful on the outside as they feel on the inside.