The Oncological Safety of Nipple-Sparing Mastectomy: A Systematic Review of the Literature with a Pooled Analysis of 12,358 Procedures

Arch Plast Surg. 2016 Jul;43(4):328-38. doi: 10.5999/aps.2016.43.4.328. Epub 2016 Jul 20.


Nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM) is increasingly popular as a procedure for the treatment of breast cancer and as a prophylactic procedure for those at high risk of developing the disease. However, it remains a controversial option due to questions regarding its oncological safety and concerns regarding locoregional recurrence. This systematic review with a pooled analysis examines the current literature regarding NSM, including locoregional recurrence and complication rates. Systematic electronic searches were conducted using the PubMed database and the Ovid database for studies reporting the indications for NSM and the subsequent outcomes. Studies between January 1970 and January 2015 (inclusive) were analysed if they met the inclusion criteria. Pooled descriptive statistics were performed. Seventy-three studies that met the inclusion criteria were included in the analysis, yielding 12,358 procedures. After a mean follow up of 38 months (range, 7.4-156 months), the overall pooled locoregional recurrence rate was 2.38%, the overall complication rate was 22.3%, and the overall incidence of nipple necrosis, either partial or total, was 5.9%. Significant heterogeneity was found among the published studies and patient selection was affected by tumour characteristics. We concluded that NSM appears to be an oncologically safe option for appropriately selected patients, with low rates of locoregional recurrence. For NSM to be performed, tumours should be peripherally located, smaller than 5 cm in diameter, located more than 2 cm away from the nipple margin, and human epidermal growth factor 2-negative. A separate histopathological examination of the subareolar tissue and exclusion of malignancy at this site is essential for safe oncological practice. Long-term follow-up studies and prospective cohort studies are required in order to determine the best reconstructive methods.

Keywords: Breast neoplasm; Mastectomy; Recurrence.

Publication types

  • Review