What effects does it have?
- Upper body
What is it?
Surgery to remove the breast tissue, more suitable to larger amounts of breast tissue.
How long does it last?
The effects are permanent and cannot be reversed.
Not all breast tissue is removed in mastectomy, and it does not remove the risk of breast cancer.
In a mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed, and usually the nipples are made smaller and repositioned.
Typically, mastectomy is performed using the double incision mastectomy technique in the UK. Around 7% of people have little enough breast tissue and good skin elasticity for periareolar mastectomy to be recommended instead 1 which can result in less visible scarring 2. Other techniques are possible, such as buttonhole or inverted T (also known as T-anchor), but are much less common in the UK.
Double incision mastectomy carries a risk of loss of sensation in the nipples or loss of the nipples entirely. If a nipple is completely lost, some people use cosmetic tattooing to give the appearance that the nipple is still there.
Mastectomy usually requires an overnight stay in hospital 3. Mastectomy is a major surgery and has a significant recovery time. You should expect to spend around 4-6 weeks time recovering before you are ready to resume work or study. When you are discharged from hospital, your surgeon should provide you with a sick note to give to your employer. You will also need to return for a follow up appointment to determine if any further surgery is required to improve the cosmetic appearance.
You can read more about mastectomy on the NHS Choices website.
You can also read more about chest surgeries on the Manchester Chest Wall Contouring Clinic website.
Preparing for a surgical procedure
Doing some preparation in advance can help make sure everything goes smoothly during your hospital stay and recovery. To help you avoid forgetting to do or buy something we have created a Getting ready for gender surgeries page.
Costs and funding
If you have a formal diagnosis, the NHS will usually provide funding for a mastectomy. Mastectomy for reasons of gender dysphoria requires a written letter of recommendation from a specialist gender clinician (such as NHS Gender Identity Clinic staff or private specialists) who have assessed you for suitability for surgery 3.
- 1 Yelland, Andrew (2017) “Chest Surgery and Breast Augmentation Surgery,” in Bouman, W. P. and Arcelus, J. (eds.), The Transgender Handbook: A Guide for Transgender People, Their Families and Professionals, Nova Science Publishers Inc, pp. 251–264.
- 2 Davies, Dai M and Stephenson, AJ (2007) “Breasts,” in Barrett, J. (ed.), Transsexual and other disorders of gender identity: A practical guide to management, Radcliffe Publishing, pp. 227–228.
- 3 Royal College of Psychiatrists (2013) “Good practice guidelines for the assessment and treatment of adults with gender dysphoria.” [online] Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/improving-care/better-mh-policy/college-reports/college-report-cr181.pdf
Errors and omissions
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Page last updated: April 2019