Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Therapeutic mammoplasty

Therapeutic mammoplasty is an operation carried out on very large-breasted women with small to moderate sized breast cancer. An oncoplastic breast surgeon operates to remove the cancer and reduce the size of the breast at the same time.

Because the surgeon reduces the size of the breast with cancer, they also reduce the size of the other breast to make the breasts symmetrical.

This operation helps to reduce the amount of radiotherapy women need after surgery. The smaller breast size also makes it easier to deliver the radiation to the right place.

Therapeutic mammoplasty is a much longer operation that a simple lumpectomy. To have the operation, you need to be fit enough to undergo a lengthy general anaesthetic and surgery. The average recovery time is about six weeks. Most people stay in hospital for one to two nights after surgery.

Therapeutic mammoplastyDepending on where the cancer is, the surgeon may also need to remove the nipple. This is also a simpler option for older patients to help minimise the risk of the nipple dying (necrosis). The risk of the nipple dying is higher in smokers (2 to 5%) compared to non-smokers (less than 1%).

After surgery, breast care nurses look after you. Special dressings help protect the wounds.

You can't have therapeutic mammoplasty if you've previously had radiotherapy and breast cancer surgery. It's difficult to predict how radiotherapy will affect you after therapeutic mammoplasty, but modern radiotherapy is much gentler with fewer side effects than there used to be.

Written by oncoplastic breast and general surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2018.

See also:

Overview of surgery

Page reference: 119411

Review key: HITHM-119411