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Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Less Likely to Produce Cancer Recurrence

By Russell Ashinoff, M.D.

Breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction. Traditional mastectomy procedures involve removing the breast tissue and the nipple, which is usually followed by the first step of the breast reconstruction process. The process culminates with a separate procedure to reconstruct the nipple and areola up to one year later. A recent study reported in ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2011) suggests that some women undergoing a mastectomy may be eligible for a nipple-sparing procedure. This eliminates the need for an additional procedure to reconstruct the nipple and areola and expedites the reconstructive process.

Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) involves the removal of the breast tissue while leaving the breast skin and nipple-areola complex, which includes the nipple and darker pigmented circle of skin that surrounds it. The incision is usually made on the edge of the areola to camouflage the scar. The breast is usually reconstructed at the time of mastectomy. In the past, there was concern that leaving the nipple intact increased the risk of local cancer recurrence.

To examine the effectiveness of NSM, surgeons conducted a review of patient records for all women receiving surgery at Georgetown University Hospital (GUH) between 1989 and 2010, including surgeries to either prevent or treat breast cancer. The results are published in the November issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Of the 162 surgeries performed, doctors found no cancer recurrences and no new cancers in those receiving NSM. However, careful selection of appropriate patients for NSM is important for the success of this procedure.

To read more about this study, go to

About the Author: Dr. Russell Ashinoff, MD, FACS

Russell Ashinoff, MD

Dr. Russell Ashinoff is double board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and The American Board of Surgery. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, is trained in reconstructive surgery, and is the co-director of the Center for Lymphedema Surgery at The Institute for Advanced Reconstruction.