Breast Reconstruction in the 21st Century has advanced in terms of the variety of techniques and the end results for many women to enjoy a return to high quality life. According to breastcancer.org, one in every eight women in the U.S. will have breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Thus, we hope all will take the opportunity to learn about breast reconstruction. High risk factors for breast cancer include: family history, excessive weight, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, and high estrogen levels. There are also drugs that have been found to elevate the risk for breast cancer, including: diethylstilbestrol (DES), hormone replacement therapy (non-bioidentical HRT’s) and oral contraceptives. Early detection offers the best opportunity to reduce the risk of death and invasive medical procedures. Early detection also supports the goal for the best possible aesthetic outcome.
Every woman must pursue mammography testing for saline breast implants or MRI testing for women with silicone breast implants at regular time intervals, as recommended by their physician. In terms of diagnosis and treatment, interdisciplinary care that involves a number of specialists and a plastic surgeon has become increasingly popular to preserve healthy breast tissue and provide the best possible overall outcome.
The Options: The Aesthetic Point of View
Plastic surgeons may become involved in the therapeutic plan of breast cancer by consulting on the initial biopsy so that aesthetics can be considered early on. There are several types of treatments that may be used in breast cancer treatment, including: lumpectomy, mastectomy, lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, radiation, and therapies, such as Herceptin therapy. There are also clinical trials that may be going on for women interested in new alternative treatments. Acupuncture, meditation, and yoga may be used as adjuncts to treatment. Following cancer treatment, there are a number of options that women have to improve the appearance of the breasts.
Most recently, the lumpectomy procedure has been introduced to preserve as much of the healthy breast tissue as possible, for women that qualify. This procedure must be followed by radiation therapy to make it a viable alternative.
Following a lumpectomy, plastic surgeons may do shaping procedures to improve the appearance of the affected breast. Radiation therapy causes an increased risk of hardening of the breast implant capsule. This is true regardless of whether the radiation is performed before or after cancer treatment.
The mastectomy procedure is the traditional procedure to remove breast cancer. Following mastectomy, a breast reconstruction procedure with the use of breast implants or existing tissue may be performed. There are two time frame choices that women must consider; having breast reconstruction immediately after the mastectomy or delayed until enough time has lapsed to complete any other necessary treatment. There are advantages associated with having immediate breast reconstruction for those who qualify. For this reason, it is wise to consult with a board certified plastic surgeon who has refined experience in the immediate breast reconstruction approach as long before breast cancer surgery as possible.
During breast reconstruction, plastic surgeons may create a breast mound using tissue from the woman’s body or breast implants. When the extent of breast tissue is inadequate, plastic surgeons may place a tissue expander which uses a saline implant to slowly increase the skin envelope. Women may return to the plastic surgeon’s office to continue to fill the saline breast implant until the desired size is achieved. Women will have tissue expandors removed months later and replaced with softer breast implants.
In the flap breast reconstruction technique, the women’s own tissue from the body is used as a pedicle flap (preservation of blood vessels) or free flap (microsurgical reattachment of blood vessels) technique involving skin, muscles and fat. This procedure may also be referred to as microsurgery or myocutaneous flap. The tissue may be transferred from the back, tummy or buttock.
In some cases, the breast lift may be performed in conjunction with the breast reconstruction procedure or months later. The nipple area may be created at the time of surgery or at a later date to allow enough time for the breast to settle into position. There may be additional reconstructive procedures required to achieve a fully satisfactory result. The good news is that plastic surgeons are able provide pleasing aesthetics in the vast majority of cases. This allows these women to move forward in their lives with confidence and renewed self-esteem.
It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition. Your Health Access disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.