Breast cancer is usually treated surgically; there are two surgical procedures at diagnosis but not everyone has a choice depending on the severity of the cancer. It can be treated by lumpectomy (just removing the lump) but always needs radiotherapy as well. Alternatively, it can be treated by mastectomy – which is total removal of the breast and usually includes removal of a lymph gland or glands/nodes as well. These procedures are done by a breast and endocrine surgeon whose primary aim is removing the cancer. In some women, but not everyone, the breast skin and even the nipple can be retained.
The second part of the surgery is performed by a plastic surgeon to rebuild the breast or breasts – a surgery called breast reconstruction. Typically, breast reconstruction takes place during (known as immediate reconstruction) or soon after mastectomy, and in some cases, lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction also can be done many months after (known as delayed reconstruction) mastectomy or lumpectomy. During reconstruction, a plastic surgeon creates a breast shape using a silicone gel prosthesis, or a flap of tissue from another place on your body (generally the tummy), or both.
There are some misconceptions associated with breast cancer reconstructive which we can address;
- Misconception #1: Breast reconstruction increases the risk of the cancer recurring or makes a recurrence harder to detect
- Misconception #2: I’ll have to wait months after the mastectomy and have another surgery for reconstruction
- Misconception #3: Implants will be uncomfortable and look unnatural
- Misconception #4: I can’t have reconstruction if I’ve had or will need radiation or chemotherapy.
- Misconception #5: Any plastic surgeon can perform breast reconstruction.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right procedure for cancer removal, and breast reconstruction. A multidisciplinary team approach is advised. A “multidisciplinary team” approach brings together a range of specialists who contribute differing skills to the planning of a patient’s treatment and ongoing management. This ensures that all relevant aspects of a patient’s needs will be considered.