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Prophylactic Mastectomy Risks

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Prophylactic mastectomy surgery, like mastectomy to treat breast cancer, has some risks:

Risks immediately after surgery:

Long-term risks:

  • Prophylactic mastectomy is permanent and irreversible.
  • This surgery causes significant loss of sensation in the breast, which can have an impact on sexuality.
  • Women who undergo prophylactic mastectomy will no longer have the ability to breastfeed from the affected breast(s).
  • After prophylactic mastectomy, some women experience anxiety or depression about body image.
  • Although prophylactic mastectomy may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by about 90%, it doesn’t guarantee that breast cancer will never happen. Breast tissue can sometimes extend to the collarbone and armpit, and it’s not possible for a surgeon to remove every last cell. Breast cancer can develop even in the small amount of tissue that remains.

If you’re at high risk of developing breast cancer, it’s important to discuss all your options for risk reduction with your doctor and loved ones. It’s also important to seek a second opinion about whether or not prophylactic mastectomy is a strategy that works for the whole you — your medical situation and your quality of life.

To learn more about what to expect before, during, and after mastectomy surgery, visit the Mastectomy section.

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