Breast Cancer Recurrence Not Influenced By Method Of Breast Reconstruction

By: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo


Does breast reconstruction increase the chance of breast cancer recurrence? 

One of my out-of-state breast cancer patients called me today. She recently underwent bilateral mastectomies and immediate breast reconstruction with DIEP flaps. She recovered very well from the surgery but unfortunately her final pathology results showed that she would likely benefit from radiation therapy.

She explained to her radiation oncologist that she was worried the radiation therapy would ruin her DIEP flap reconstruction. While there are certainly things we can do to address this, she is right to be concerned - patients undergoing radiation therapy after an autologous reconstruction (a flap reconstruction using their own tissue) have a significant risk of needing further surgery to correct asymmetry caused by the radiation changes (usually firming and shrinking) of the irradiated breast.

The response she received from the radiation oncologist baffled me.... "DIEP flap? What's a DIEP flap?.... if you'd had a TRAM flap then you wouldn't be needing radiation."

This is an incorrect statement.

The type of breast reconstruction has absolutely nothing to do with it. The TRAM flap and DIEP flap both use lower abdominal skin and fat to reconstruct the breast; the main difference between these procedures is that the TRAM also includes the abdominal muscle while the DIEP preserves it.

The pathology report and the recommendation for radiation therapy would have been exactly the same whether reconstruction was performed or not. The risk of cancer recurrence is related to the characteristics of the cancer itself and the mastectomy margins, not the method of reconstruction.

So what's the take home message if you're considering breast reconstruction? Choose whichever method of reconstruction is best for you. Your decision will not in influence the risk of additional cancer treatment or the likelihood of your cancer coming back in any way.

Learn More About DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction


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  • PRMA

    “What is a DIEP flap?” This begs the question, “What happened to H.R. 5937?” Am I correct in my research that this bill was never passed? It looks like it is now H.R. 1984? Lots of questions, I know, but in my journey to reconstruction I am becoming very passionate about the implementation of educating women about their reconstruction options and the health information that accompanies the process.

  • PRMA

    Your passion is so inspiring Terri! You are correct that the H.R. 5937 never passed and H.R. 1984 is in circulation. Being an advocate within your community is a great way to spread the word on the education needed for breast reconstruction patients. Thank you so much for your support Terri and I look forward to meeting you soon!—Courtney

PRMA Plastic Surgery