Breast Reconstruction after Radiation
Cancer is an ugly word that no-one wants to hear. The challenges a patient with cancer faces are many, and can leave a person feeling helpless, angry, and alone. Something else often happens after such a diagnosis, something far more positive. Many times, patients will surprise even themselves with the amount of strength they have during their battle with cancer. A patient’s determination, strong will, pride, and positivity can have an immense effect on her outcome after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer can be especially devastating. A woman’s breasts are a part of her femininity, part of her identity, and part of what makes her feel confident, sexy, and desirable. A necessary course of treatment for many women with breast cancer is the removal of part or all of the breast. A mastectomy dramatically changes a patient’s life. While mastectomy has the potential to save a patient’s life, it may also negatively affect a patient’s self-esteem and self-worth.
More conservative surgical methods and advancements in breast reconstruction allow more patients to achieve superior results after undergoing breast reconstruction after mastectomy and radiation.
Breast Reconstruction after Radiation
Mastectomy in conjunction with radiation therapy may be necessary in the treatment of breast cancer. Radiation therapy may be recommended to lower a patient’s risk of cancer coming back. It may also be recommended when cancer is found within the lymph nodes or when the cancer is greater than five cm. Radiation therapy can make breast reconstruction more difficult. It can negatively affect the results of a patient's breast reconstruction.
At her practice in New York, Dr. Julie Vasile discusses a patient’s breast reconstruction options after radiation during the personal consultation. During this time, Dr. Vasile will discuss which breast reconstruction techniques are best suited to the unique needs of the patient. The timing of the breast reconstruction, as well as what to expect after surgery will also be discussed.
Breast reconstruction restores the size and shape of the breast after part or all of the breast has been removed. Many patients do not want to even think about breast reconstruction while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Others wish to focus on returning their body to a more normal state.
Radiation therapy may cause a patient to achieve less than satisfactory results when undergoing breast reconstruction with breast implants. A patient’s risk for complications after breast reconstruction with implants increases when radiation therapy is performed after mastectomy. One way in which this risk may be minimized is by combining breast reconstruction techniques. Utilizing a woman’s own tissues during breast reconstruction with or without implants can improve a patient’s outcome.
Autologous breast reconstruction uses a patient’s own fat and skin to reconstruct the breast after mastectomy. The perforator flap microsurgical technique may be used to remove extra skin and fat from a patient’s body without removing underlying muscle. There are many areas of the body in which fat and skin may be taken. The abdomen is usually an ideal source for extra skin and fat. Most women have an adequate amount of fat and skin in the abdomen to utilize it as a source of tissue in breast reconstruction.
The DIEP (deep inferior epigastric artery perforator) flap procedure uses blood vessels, fat, and skin from abdomen to reconstruct the breast. DIEP flap reconstruction is one of the most difficult, yet successful breast reconstruction methods to perform. Other abdominal flaps may also be used. Using the abdomen as a source of tissue to rebuild the breast may not be an option for patients that have undergone adominoplasty in the past. The thighs, buttocks, and back may also be used as donor sites for breast reconstruction. Reconstruction of the nipple is typically performed some time after the primary breast reconstruction procedure.
If you would like to learn more about breast reconstruction after radiation, please call or email Dr. Julie Vasile today. Dr. Vasile and her team look forward to hearing from you.