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What Is a Left Mastectomy?

A left mastectomy is the surgical removal of the left breast.
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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Surgically removing an entire breast is called a mastectomy, and it most often is performed as a treatment for breast cancer. A left mastectomy is performed when only the left breast needs to be removed, usually because the right breast is cancer-free. A lumpectomy, in which the cancerous breast tissue is removed and the rest of the breast remains intact, may suffice for some women. If a tumor is large, though, a lumpectomy may not be an option and a doctor may recommend a full left mastectomy to get rid of cancer in the patient's left breast.

Modern medicine has made it possible for some women to have a skin-sparing left mastectomy. During this type of surgery, the breast tissue is removed but more skin is left intact, making reconstructive surgery easier. Having a lumpectomy or a partial mastectomy may seem like a good option to some patients, because both options mean not having to lose the entire breast. It is important for patients to keep in mind, though, that radiation therapy may be necessary if the entire breast is not removed.

Radiation therapy can be draining and may leave a patient feeling very fatigued. Other potential side effects include swollen breast tissue and a skin rash. Doctors and patients should discuss the pros and cons of radiation therapy before deciding if a full left mastectomy should be performed or if a lumpectomy will suffice.

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It can be emotionally traumatizing for a woman to lose a breast. A woman who has undergone a left mastectomy may feel self-conscious about how she will look in clothes with only one breast. There are a couple options available when it comes replacing the left breast. Silicone bra inserts are a top choice for women who can't or don't want to under go another surgery, even for reconstructive purposes. A silicone bra insert matching the size of a woman's right breast can be placed into her left bra cup and no one should be able to tell that she is missing a breast while she is clothed.

Women who want a lasting solution to replace a breast lost to a left mastectomy will have to undergo reconstructive surgery. As long as there is enough skin left, doctors can insert a saline breast implant large enough to match the woman's right breast. Depending on the circumstances of a woman's mastectomy surgery, she may be able to have an implant placed while she is still under anesthesia from the mastectomy. In other cases, a woman may have to leave the hospital with only one breast, recover and come back for a second surgery to have the implant and a tissue expander introduced.

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