Will I Need Chemotherapy After a Total Mastectomy?

A total mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast to treat breast cancer. A physician may recommend this treatment on its own or in combination with another therapy, such as chemotherapy. When chemotherapy is provided after surgery, it is called adjuvant chemotherapy. Whether or not chemotherapy is recommended following a total mastectomy will depend on many different factors, including the patient’s overall health, age and medical history as well as the type, stage and nature of the breast cancer.

Factors your physician will consider to determine if chemotherapy is recommended

If your physician has recommended that you have a total mastectomy, you may be wondering if your unique circumstances may require that you receive chemotherapy as well. Some of the factors that influence this decision include:

  • The type of cancer – Chemotherapy may not be recommended for certain forms of breast cancer, such as in situ cancers, that are unlikely to spread to other areas. For other types of cancers, such as triple negative breast cancers or HER2-positive breast cancers, chemotherapy may be recommended following the total mastectomy because these forms of cancer are typically more aggressive.
  • The location of cancer cells – If cancer is detected in the lymph nodes or has spread to areas outside of the breast tissue, chemotherapy will likely be recommended to remove any cancer cells that remain following the surgery.
  • Previous chemotherapy treatments – If a patient has previously received chemotherapy and subsequently developed cancer again, it may not be recommended because it was not effective the first time.
  • The age of the patient – Women who are premenopausal are more likely to have aggressive forms of breast cancer. This may also influence a physician’s recommendation to include chemotherapy after a total mastectomy.

Each patient’s case is different and therefore requires individualized attention and a treatment plan that’s tailored to his or her unique circumstances. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty team meets regularly as a tumor board, ensuring you will receive the individualized treatment and care you require.

If you would like to learn more about the breast cancer treatment options that may be best for you, such as a total mastectomy and chemotherapy, call 1-888-663-3488 or fill out a new patient registration form online to schedule an appointment at Moffitt.