Posted September 23, 2016
Breast cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Many of these women are between the ages of 35-50 and may have no prior family history.
The decision to undergo a breast reconstruction is very personal. Although breast reconstruction is not the choice for everyone, Dr. Antimarino believes each woman needs to have an opportunity to explore her options. Studies have proven many women who have chosen breast reconstruction experience a significant improvement in their emotional well-being and body image. A plastic surgeon is important to have included as part of the patient’s treating team of physicians as this provides them with the information they need to make informed, educated decisions about their treatment plan.
When considering reconstruction, the timing involved is an important piece of the process. An immediate reconstruction starts at the time of the mastectomy and leads to the best aesthetic and emotional outcomes. Delayed reconstruction occurs at a time after the mastectomy has healed, usually years later. It, too, can build a breast and restore a woman’s sense of wholeness. Studies encourage a patient to undergo immediate reconstruction as the sense of loss is less significant in recovery.
Most reconstruction techniques take 2-3 stages to reach completion. The direct to implant surgery technique has the implant placed at the time of the mastectomy. The tissue expander technique is the most common one used today. An expander is placed to increase the amount of skin on the chest wall after mastectomy. This is followed by a second stage (surgery) to recover the expander and replace it with a silicone gel implant. At the second surgery, a procedure is usually performed as well on the non-affected breast to increase symmetry between the breasts. Flaps are another technique used by plastic surgeons where a woman’s own tissue is used to create a new breast.
Recovery time varies depending upon the type of reconstruction used. Breast reconstruction techniques have improved so significantly over the last decade that now each woman can have a treatment plan that is individualized to meet her own personal goals and lifestyle.
Many women, when facing breast cancer, feel overwhelmed by all of the information and treatment options given to them by the Oncologist, Breast General Surgeon and Plastic Surgeon. It is important to establish communication with those involved as the journey is emotional for both the family and the patient. Research, early detection and treatment provide millions of women the ability to survive breast cancer today.