Breast Reconstruction After Radiation
by: Brandy Haslam
Traditionally general surgeons and oncologists have advocated waiting 6 months or more to have breast reconstruction after radiation treatment. I’m sure that those of you have needed radiation in the past have been told this, and even now, some surgeons and oncologists are still recommending waiting this long.
So it may come as a surprise that in some cases, reconstruction can be delayed by only 4-8 weeks.
To get the scoop, I chatted with one of our surgeons, Dr. Steven Pisano who had this to say:
“We’ve found that performing flap reconstruction sooner rather than later is actually better for some patients. Doing reconstruction sooner can improve the environment of the chest wall by allowing for increased blood flow, in turn creating a healthier breast long-term.
With radiation, the patient’s skin and soft tissues are ultimately damaged. The longer the patient waits to have reconstruction, the longer the effects of radiation have to settle in and wreak havoc on the skin, tissue and surrounding areas.
Performing a flap procedure like the DIEP, TUG, GAP or Latissimus flap allows us to remove that radiated skin and tissue and replace it with healthy skin and tissue from another part of the body.”
Implant procedures, however, are not usually the first choice for patients undergoing radiation treatment. If you’re a patient potentially needing radiation treatment, Dr. Pisano strongly recommends a flap procedure if you are a candidate for one.
"We avoid implant reconstructions in the setting of radiation, due to the increased potential for short and long-term problems such as infection, wound healing problems, implant exposure, capsular contracture and poor aesthetic outcomes."