What is a Double Mastectomy?

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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 June 2019
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A double mastectomy is a surgical procedure during which a doctor removes both of a woman’s breasts. Sometimes this breast removal is performed because one or both breasts have cancer. Other times it is performed as a preventive measure due to the woman’s high-risk status for developing breast cancer. Generally, success rates for mastectomy procedures are high, though certain variables affect each woman’s results. Once she’s healed, a woman can choose from among numerous cosmetic options.

Probably the most common reason for a double mastectomy is necessity. If a woman has breast cancer in both breasts, she might choose surgery over other types of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. On the other hand, double breast removal might be the only option. This is sometimes the case if the cancer has escalated to the point that doctors do not believe other treatment options will help. In situations like this, having both breasts removed might be thought the woman’s best chance at survival.


Some women choose mastectomy procedures as a preventive measure. For example, if a woman has a family history of breast cancer, she might choose to have both of her own breasts removed to prevent herself from developing the disease. This kind of breast removal is called a preventive double mastectomy. At the same time, if a woman has cancer in one breast and not the other, she might choose to have both breasts removed to prevent the cancer from spreading. In this situation, the removal of the healthy breast is a precaution.

Typically, mastectomy procedures are highly successful in removing and preventing future occurrences of cancer. Of course, this will vary by patient, and a woman’s doctor will want to monitor the situation, possibly throughout her life. Regarding preventive breast removal, some studies have shown that a double mastectomy can drastically reduce the risk of breast cancer, even up to 100%. Also, having both breasts removed when only one is affected by cancer can significantly hinder the recurrence or spread of the cancer.

After having a double mastectomy, a woman has several cosmetic options. Some women choose to have reconstructive surgery, which is similar to a traditional breast augmentation surgery. Others choose to have tattoos placed over their mastectomy scars. Often, women who choose tattoos select designs that commemorate their survival. Some women choose to do nothing more than wear special padded bras made specifically for mastectomy patients.



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