In a standard mastectomy, the entire breast is removed, along with the nipple and areola.

However, does sparing the nipple increase the risk of cancer coming back?

Not according to new research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, and published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Low risk of breast cancer recurrence

Breast cancer is most likely to recur within the first five years after treatment.

Recurrence can be localized, regional, or distant.

Of 311 study participants who had a nipple-sparing mastectomy (NSM), the rate of recurrence was 5.5 percent. But no recurrences involved the retained nipple or areola. The median follow-up was 51 months.

The recurrence rate is comparable to that of standard mastectomy, Dr. Barbara L. Smith, the study’s principal investigator, said in a press release.

More than three-fourths of the women in the study had stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer. The rest had stage 2 or 3.

Between 2007 and 2016, 1,871 other NSMs were performed at the hospital. Some were due to breast cancer. Some were performed to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women.

There were no reports of any recurrences involving the nipple. It’s unusual for breast cancer to start in the nipple, even among women who are at high risk.