As part of a mastectomy, the nipple is often removed. However, it may be possible to keep it. Your surgeon will discuss this with you before the operation. Keeping the nipple and areola can sometimes mean that a small amount of breast tissue is left behind. Your surgeon can explain the risks and benefits of keeping the nipple and areola. They may be preserved when the risk of the nipple or surrounding tissue containing cancer cells is very low, your breast shape is suitable and you are having an immediate reconstruction.
There are two options for keeping your own nipple:
- The nipple can be left attached to the skin of the breast and only the breast tissue which lies under the skin removed.
- The nipple and the surrounding darker skin (areola) may be removed with the rest of the breast tissue and then attached (grafted) onto the reconstructed breast.
Sometimes the preserved nipple needs to be removed in the weeks following the breast reconstruction operation. This may happen if there are cancer cells found in the tissue removed near the nipple. It may also be done if the blood supply to the preserved nipple is not good enough and the nipple dies.