Breast Reconstruction Myths Debunked
By: Courtney Floyd
What are common myths surrounding breast reconstruction?
You'll need to wait until after the mastectomy before having breast reconstruction.
FALSE! Immediate breast reconstruction can usually be performed at the same time as the mastectomy and generally leads to the best cosmetic results. Most women with early breast cancer (stage 1 or 2) are candidates. Immediate breast reconstruction has the advantages of saving the natural breast skin and decreasing the amount of scarring. Enabling the patient to wake up after surgery with breasts and avoiding the experience of a flat chest is also an added benefit to having reconstruction performed at the same time as the mastectomy.
Breast reconstruction is not an option for women who have radiation.
FALSE! Whether a patient is having radiation or not, breast reconstruction is always an option. For patients who will have/have undergone radiation, our surgeons recommend flap based breast reconstruction due to the high complication rates associated with implants in conjunction with radiation. Immediate breast reconstruction with either flaps or tissue expanders may still be an option if post-mastectomy radiation is planned, however, a coordinated team approach involving a radiation oncologist experienced in treating breast reconstruction patients is crucial in decreasing the risk of complications. Having said that, many surgeons still prefer to delay reconstruction until after the mastectomy and radiation have been completed. Unlike radiation, the plan for chemotherapy alone does not usually delay reconstruction.
Breast implants are the only option for breast reconstruction.
FALSE! When most women think about reconstruction, they automatically think breast implants. There are many reconstruction options available to women today. Microsurgical breast reconstruction using perforator flaps (e.g. DIEP flap, SIEA flap, TUG/VUG flap, GAP flap, etc.) represents the state of the art in reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. Flap surgery uses the patient’s own tissue from other areas (like the tummy, buttock or thigh) to recreate a “natural,” warm, soft breast. Flaps also avoid the long term problems associated with implants - many implant patients require further surgery within ten years because of implant-related problems like significant hardening (capsular contracture).