By Marshalee George, Kimlin Tam Ashing

Part of Detecting and Living with Breast Cancer For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The surgery known as mastectomy is sometimes a necessary treatment for breast cancer, but not all mastectomies are the same. Here are some basic facts about mastectomies to be aware of:

  • You have options. With a total mastectomy, the entire breast is removed. A modified radical mastectomy is where the entire breast along with the lymph nodes under the arm are removed. A prophylactic mastectomy occurs when a person chooses to remove one or both breasts because of familial or genetic risk factors. A mastectomy with reconstruction is where reconstruction is performed at the same time as removal of the breast. Many types of reconstruction include placement of an implant or tissue expander, or the use of your own tissue to reconstruct the breast.
  • Saline and silicone implants are equally safe for breast reconstruction.
  • If you chose to have a mastectomy without breast reconstruction, your insurance will likely pay for you to have prosthesis, bras, and sometimes even camisoles. Contact your insurance to find out your specific coverage.
  • If you had a mastectomy many years ago and have now decided to have breast reconstruction, most health insurance will still cover the cost. Contact your insurance to find out your coverage.
  • If you develop excess tissue at the mastectomy site (sometimes called dog ears), especially under the arm, your health insurance will likely cover revision surgery to remove the excess tissue.