The surgical removal of all of the breast, usually performed to treat breast cancer. Mastectomy may be used for extensive breast cancer or for multiple cancerous tumours. For smaller cancers, lumpectomy or quadrantectomy may be appropriate. A mastectomy involves the removal of all of the breast tissue and usually some or all of the lymph nodes in the armpit. Cells from the lymph nodes are examined to determine whether cancerous cells may have spread. The operation is performed under general anaesthesia and usually requires a stay in hospital of several days. Plastic surgery to reconstruct the breast may be carried out at the same time as the mastectomy or at a later time (see mammoplasty). Treatment with radiotherapy is often given after surgery, especially if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes. It usually starts a month after surgery and is continued for 6 weeks. Drug treatment with tamoxifen or chemotherapy may also be given.


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