Background: Skin-sparing mastectomy (SSM), which involves the resection of the nipple/areolar complex with the breast parenchyma, improves the aesthetic outcome for breast cancer patients. Most patients undergoing SSM desire reconstruction of the nipple/areolar complex for symmetry. These data explore the possibility of preserving the areola in selected mastectomy patients.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of 217 mastectomy patients was conducted to determine the frequency of malignant nipple and/or areola involvement. The association between nipple and/or areola involvement and prognostic factors, including tumor size, stage, nuclear grade, axillary nodal status, and tumor location, was evaluated.
Results: The overall frequency of malignant nipple involvement was 23 of 217 (10.6%). In a subgroup of patients with tumors <2 cm, peripheral tumors, and with two positive nodes or less, the incidence of nipple involvement was 6.7%. When the nipple and areolar involvement were analyzed separately, only 2 of 217 patients had involvement of the areola (0.9%). All patients with areolar involvement had stage 3 breast cancer and were located centrally in the breast.
Conclusions: We conclude from these data that nipple preservation is not a reasonable option for mastectomy patients. However, preservation of the areola with mastectomy in selected patients warrants further study.