It was developed and first performed by William Stewart Halsted in 1882. From about 1895 to the mid-1970s about 90% of the women being treated for breast cancer in the U.S. underwent the Halsted radical mastectomy. This is a very morbid disfiguring surgery and is no longer performed except in extreme cases. Prior to 1975, if a woman had a lump in her breast, and the lump proved to be malignant, a radical mastectomy was performed immediately, in the belief that it was necessary to prevent the further spread of the cancer. If the lymph nodes tested benign, the surgery was considered successful. The operation was very stressful for women, because, in many cases, they would go under anesthesia not knowing whether a suspicious lump was malignant or not and wake up to find that a radical mastectomy had been performed.
Today, there are three main categories of mastectomy: