Nipple-sparing and skin-sparing mastectomy: Review of aims, oncological safety and contraindications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Skin-sparing (SSM) and nipple-sparing (NSM) mastectomies are relatively new conservative surgical approaches to breast cancer. In SSM most of the breast skin is conserved to create a pocket that facilitates immediate breast reconstruction with implant or autologous graft to achieve a quality cosmetic outcome. NSM is closely similar except that the nipple-areola complex (NAC) is also conserved. Meta-analyses indicate that outcomes for SSM and NSM do not differ from those for non-conservative mastectomies. Recurrence rates in the NAC after NSM are acceptably low (0-3.7%). Other studies indicate that NSM is associated with high patient satisfaction and good psychological adjustment.Indications are carcinoma or DCIS that require mastectomy (including after neoadjuvant chemotherapy). NSM is also suitable for women undergoing risk-reducing bilateral mastectomy.Tumor not less than 2 cm from the NAC is recommended, but may be less important than no evidence of nipple involvement on mandatory intraoperative nipple margin assessment. A positive margin is an absolute contraindication for nipple preservation. Other contraindications are microcalcifications close to the subareolar region and a positive nipple discharge.Complication rates are similar to those for other types of post-mastectomy reconstructions. The main complication of NSM is NAC necrosis, however as surgeon experience matures, frequency declines. Factors associated with complications are voluminous breast, ptosis, smoking, obesity, and radiotherapy.Since the access incision is small, breast tissue may be left behind, so only experienced breast surgeons should do these operations in close collaboration with the plastic surgeon. For breast cancer patients requiring mastectomy, NSM should be the option of choice.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2017


  • Breast cancer
  • Conservative mastectomy
  • NSM
  • Oncoplastic surgery
  • Skin-sparing mastectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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