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Breast Reconstruction Options

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 200,000 American women every year must face the challenges of breast cancer, and some also will need to consider breast reconstruction options.  Major advances in cancer treatment, in addition to advances in reconstructive surgery, have allowed women to have more choices than ever in the way they approach breast surgery. Films and imaging today are much improved over decades ago, which has helped doctors detect cancers earlier, in addition to increased awareness to get people to get their mammogramsTreatment options have also improved, allowing more effective drug choices and better surgical techniques that allow the breast(s) to remain whenever possible.

Breast Conservation

In the future, doctors may even be able to use a genetic test to find out how breast cancer patients will respond to chemotherapy drugs, since it does not always work uniformly.  Exciting new breakthroughs are constantly being made, and unlike in the past, more and more women with breast cancer are choosing surgery that removes less breast tissue than a mastectomy.  A mastectomy removes the entire breast, but with successful breast conservation surgery, women are able to treat the breast cancer while still preserving their breast.

Reconstructive Surgery Options

Some women will still choose to have a mastectomy, but there are breast reconstruction options available, should they decide they would like to have it performed.  If a patient is thinking about having breast reconstruction surgery, it is advised to discuss the options prior to the mastectomy.  Even if the patient does not choose to undergo breast reconstruction surgery at the time of the mastectomy, discussing its possibility can help better determine the best course of treatment knowing the patient has possible future interest in the procedure.

Different breast reconstruction options include one-stage immediate breast reconstruction, which is performed at the same time as the mastectomy, or two-stage immediate, which is performed if your skin and chest wall tissues are tight and flat.  Tissue flap procedures use tissue from the tummy, back, hip or buttocks to reconstruct the breast, and the two most common types of tissue flap surgeries are the TRAM flap or the latissimus dorsi flap.

TRAM flap, or transverse rectus abdominis muscle flap, uses tissue from the abdominal area, while the latissimus dorsi flap uses tissue from the upper back.  An added effect of the TRAM flap procedure is that because the tissue from the lower abdominal wall is often not enough to create a breast shape, the skin, fat, blood vessels and at least one of the abdominal muscles are moved from the abdomen to the chest area, which results in a tummy tuck.

Implant Options

Most commonly, patients will have the saline filled implant used for their reconstruction surgery, but silicone gel implants are also used.  Silicone gel implants were taken off the market in 1992 because of safety concerns but remained for use in clinical trials and for women who have had a mastectomy.  In April 2005, an FDA advisory panel voted 7-2 to recommend approving Mentor Corp.'s silicone-gel implants if certain conditions were met.  Plastic surgeons and patients have contended that silicone-gel implants restore the natural look and feel of a breast much better than saline.

Breast Cancer Recurrence After Breast Reconstruction

Women are often concerned with how different breast reconstruction options affect the recurrence of breast cancer, but it does not cause problems with treatments or if the cancer should recur. Breast reconstruction also does not obscure a return of breast cancer, though it is still important to go for regularly scheduled mammograms on the opposite breast.

Contact A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Near You

One in eight women used to develop breast cancer by the time she reached her 80s, but that number has been revised because of longer life expectancy rates.  Now, one in seven women who reach the age of 100 will be diagnosed with the disease, but while the number of breast cancer cases diagnosed continues to rise, death rates are dropping because of increased awareness and better detection. If you are a breast cancer survivor, please contact us to find a qualified surgeon in your area who can discuss your breast reconstruction options.