The study reports the results of a prospectively randomized trial for treatment of carcinoma of the breast comparing standard (Halsted) radical mastectomy to a modified radical mastectomy. Three hundred eleven patients with primary operable carcinoma of the breast were entered in a surgical and adjunctive chemotherapy trial in Alabama between 1975 and 1978. A total of 91 surgeons participated (all Diplomats of the American Board of Surgery and Members of the American College of Surgeons). All operative reports, pathology and therapy were reviewed by referees. Histologically node positive patients were randomized after operation to receive melphalan or C.M.F (cytoxan, methotrexate, and 5-FU) for 1 year. After a median follow-up of 5.5 years, there was no significant difference in disease-free survival or in overall survival between the two groups. There was a trend toward improved 5-year survival rates in the radical mastectomy group compared to the modified radical mastectomy group (84% vs. 76%, p = 0.14). There was also an increased incidence of local wound recurrence in those patients receiving modified radical mastectomy, but the differences were not statistically significant (p = 0.09). Longer follow-up will be necessary to evaluate these results more fully.