Why do women accept to undergo a nipple sparing mastectomy or to reconstruct the nipple areola complex when nipple sparing mastectomy is not possible?

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Apr;132(3):1177-84. doi: 10.1007/s10549-012-1983-y. Epub 2012 Feb 19.


In a retrospective study, we investigated the reasons why women accepted to undergo a nipple sparing mastectomy (NSM) and why women who could not keep their nipple areola complex (NAC) decided to reconstruct it. We intended to investigate whether keeping the NAC plays a psychological role, to state possible advantages of NSM. Between 2004 and 2006, 310 women with NAC sparing and 143 patients with successive NAC reconstruction were mailed a single open-ended question at follow-up 12 months after final breast reconstruction surgery or final NAC reconstruction with tattoo. The purpose was to explore personal motivations that drove women to accept NSM or to perform a NAC tattoo reconstruction. Responses were classified into 11 categories by five reviewers. We performed an analysis of the relative frequency of emerging issues. Socio-demographic and clinical data were collected. Among the patients who responded to the open-ended question, 190 patients preserved their NAC, and 100 patients received postponed NAC reconstruction. Women in the NSM group were significantly younger (P = 0.02), more highly educated (P < 0.0001), and more frequently lived in Northern Italy (P = 0.03). The reasons for accepting NSM were more frequently related to body image satisfaction and integrity of the body (P = 0.002), reduction of psychological distress (P = 0.003), and surgeon's influence (P < 0.0001). Esthetic reasons were highly associated to the control group. These results help us to better understand the psychological impact of NAC sparing versus NAC reconstruction. NSM was accepted because it was perceived as a technique that preserved the integrity of the body, reduced the feeling of mutilation, improved the breast cosmetic results, and reduced psychological distress regarding the loss of the breast.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / psychology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / psychology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / surgery
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammaplasty / psychology*
  • Mastectomy, Radical / psychology*
  • Mastectomy, Segmental / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / surgery*
  • Physicians
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires