Background: Nipple-sparing mastectomy remains controversial and its adoption has been slow because of oncologic and surgical concerns.
Methods: A retrospective study evaluated all nipple-sparing mastectomies performed at a single institution for therapeutic or prophylactic indications for which records were available.
Results: Between 1989 and 2010, 162 nipple-sparing mastectomies were performed in 101 women. Forty-nine (30 percent) were performed for therapeutic purposes on 48 patients. A subareolar biopsy specimen was taken in 39 of 49 breasts (80 percent); four (10 percent) revealed ductal carcinoma in situ, and the nipple or nipple-areola complex was later removed. Four of 49 breasts (8 percent) in the therapeutic group had ischemic complications involving the nipple-areola complex, one of which (2 percent) was excised. With a mean follow-up of 2 years 6 months (range, 5 months to 9 years 5 months), no patients developed cancer in the nipple-areola complex. The remaining 113 mastectomies (70 percent) were performed prophylactically on 80 patients. The subareolar tissue was biopsied in 80 breasts (71 percent). One biopsy revealed lobular carcinoma in situ; none had ductal carcinoma in situ or invasive cancer. Two nipple-areola complexes (1.8 percent) were ischemic and excised. With a mean follow-up of 3 years 7 months (range, 5 months to 20 years 6 months), no patients developed new primary cancers in the nipple-areola complex.
Conclusions: Nipple-sparing mastectomy can be safe in properly selected patients. A subareolar biopsy can effectively identify nipple-areola complexes that may harbor cancerous cells. Ischemic complications resulting in nipple loss can be minimized, and long-term follow-up suggests that this technique deserves further investigation in properly selected patients.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, IV.