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Breast Cancer Treatment: Modified Radical Mastectomy

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/16/2010

The treatment of breast cancer can be carried out in different ways. When breast cancer is operable, surgery is carried out in one of three ways. What follows surgery is often chemotherapy or radiotherapy, performed to kill residual cancer cells.

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    Surgical Options for Breast Cancer Treatment

    The simplest surgical option for the treatment of breast cancer is the lumpectomy. In this procedure the tumor and a small portion of the surrounding breast tissue are removed. In addition the lymph nodes located under the arm on the same side as the tumor may be removed.

    The second option is called a simple mastectomy. This procedure involves the removal of an entire breast, but the lymph nodes are not removed. However while lymph nodes are not removed, they are biopsied to ensure that the breast cancer has not metastasized. The simply mastectomy procedure is usually considered the safest option if the cancer is too large for a lumpectomy to be effective.

    The third option is modified radical mastectomy, or MRM.

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    Modified Radical Mastectomy

    If a tumor is so large that the breast must be removed, modified radical mastectomy is usually the treatment of choice. This is the most invasive of the three treatment options described here, but despite this it is the most common surgical procedure for operable breast cancer. This is largely because it provides an effective treatment and is also the least disfiguring breast removal procedure.

    In a modified radical mastectomy the entire breast is removed, as well as the lymph nodes on the same side. The large chest muscle known as the pectoralis major is not removed, which means the chest wall is still covered and protected with a layer of soft tissue. In addition, the muscles of the shoulder are also allowed to remain intact. This means a woman who has this procedure can later undergo breast reconstruction surgery if she wishes to. To this end the surgery is carried out so as to maximize the removal of potentially diseased breast tissue, while at the same time minimizing damage to the skin.

    Most women will have a hospital stay of one to two days after the surgery. Incisions usually heal completely within four weeks. Women should seek immediate medical treatment if they experience symptoms such as worsening pain, fever, redness at the incision site, or fluid build-up at the incision site.

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    References

    The Mayo Clinic: Modified Radical Mastectomy

    University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: Modified Radical Mastectomy (Breast Removal)