As many as one in eight women are affected by breast cancer, and for these women the process of undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy, followed by a breast reconstruction procedure, is almost always an emotional one. It has long been my belief that this process can often be made just a little bit easier through education, because understanding exactly what is involved and what options are available can go a long way towards counteracting the fear and uncertainty that inevitably accompany a breast cancer diagnosis. For more than twenty years, I have been a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery procedures of the breast and body, and in that time I have had the privilege of helping many women who are fighting and winning the battle against breast cancer. Here are answers to some of the questions I am frequently asked about this life changing procedure.
Women can choose to undergo breast reconstruction months or even years after their mastectomy, depending on their personal preference and the requirements dictated by their treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy have been known to cause undesirable changes in the texture or appearance of breasts that have been reconstructed using breast implants. So, in some cases, it may be advisable to delay the reconstructive procedure until after those treatments are complete. However, in cases where the mastectomy alone is sufficient to remove the cancer, I will frequently recommend immediate reconstruction, a procedure that coordinates the efforts of the oncologist with the plastic surgeon so that the mastectomy and the reconstruction can be completed during a single operation. There are also various intermediate, or staged, options that make it possible rebuild a breast gradually using tissue expanders in conjunction with silicone or saline implants. Ultimately, every woman’s situation is unique and so I make it a point to carefully discuss all of the options with each of my patients so that we can together determine the treatment approach that is best suited to their individual needs.
Are there breast reconstruction options that allow for the preservation of more natural tissue?
The treatment and reconstruction options for any patient will largely be determined by their individual medical needs. However, there has been a great deal of promising work done in the field of oncoplastic surgery, which combines the work of the oncologic surgeon with that of the plastic surgeon to preserve the patient’s breast tissue and maintain, as much as possible, the breast’s natural appearance. For example, a lumpectomy may be sufficient to remove cancer before it has spread, but may leave behind depressed areas on the breast itself. Fat transfer techniques, often used during cosmetic breast enhancement procedures, may be able to smooth and refine the appearance of the breast by adding purified fat that has been removed from other areas of the patient’s own body. An oncoplastic approach is not suitable in every case, and care must always be taken to make the elimination of the cancer the first and foremost priority, so it is important that you discuss your case carefully with a board certified plastic surgeon who has a great deal of experience performing procedures of the breast before deciding if such a procedure is right for you.
The number of options available for women undergoing breast reconstruction, in terms of both surgical approaches and post-surgical support, are greater than ever before. For example, I personally helped to found the Pink Ribbon Story Foundation (PRSF), a charitable organization that gives women with breast cancer and their families a chance to connect and share their stories and to receive valuable advice and support from others undergoing similar experiences.. If you would like to learn more about your breast cancer options, or about any of the other reconstructive or cosmetic plastic surgery procedures that I regularly perform, contact my Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. office to schedule a consultation today. Connect with me, Dr. James Namnoum, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more plastic surgery news and updates.