Can You Get Breast Cancer in a Reconstructed Breast?
What is breast cancer recurrence?
Even after treatment, it is possible for breast cancer to return. This is referred to as a “recurrence.” Although the goal of treatment (whether it be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the three) is to eliminate all cancer cells, it is possible for some cells to remain and eventually multiply to become a recurrent breast cancer. When the recurrence is at or near the original location of the tumor, this is called a local-recurrence. When the cancer presents at a distant site, that is termed a metastasis. Metastasis can occur anywhere throughout the body, but most commonly occurs in the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. The risk of breast cancer recurrence can vary from person to person. The type of breast cancer, lymph node involvement, and individual’s genetic makeup are just some of the many factors that can impact the overall risk of recurrence. It is important to discuss your individual recurrence risk with your medical team to ensure you make the best treatment decisions for you.
Can recurrence happen after a mastectomy?
During a mastectomy, the breast surgeon removes as much of the breast tissue as possible. However, removing 100% of breast tissue is never possible and small amounts of breast tissue may can remain on the chest wall or under the nipple (during nipple-sparing mastectomy). Patients undergoing a mastectomy can greatly reduce their risk of a local recurrence, but even after a mastectomy, breast cancer can still return. The recurrence can appear locally (in the remaining breast tissue or mastectomy scar), in the nearby lymph nodes, or anywhere else in the body (metastasis).
Can recurrence occur in the reconstructed breast?
A recurrence can occur in the breast area after reconstruction, but will originate in the remaining breast tissue or skin (if applicable) — not in the reconstruction itself. The reconstructed breast is made up of an implant, acellular dermal matrix, or the patient’s own donor tissue (DIEP flap or other flaps) and these do not contain breast cells. The tissues surrounding the reconstructed breast may have residual breast cancer cells. For higher risk patients, these areas are targeted with radiation or chemotherapy to eliminate any remaining breast cancer cells.
Does breast reconstruction increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence?
Breast reconstruction, regardless of the type of procedure performed does not impact the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Is screening recommended to check for breast cancer recurrence?
Continued monthly self-breast exams are always recommended. Even after a mastectomy and breast reconstruction! If patients notice any change in their breast, it is important to follow up with your breast surgeon to see if further imaging tests should be performed.
For some breast reconstruction patients, continued routine clinical screening may be recommended if the risk of future disease is high.
Author: Dr. Ramon Garza III and Courtney Floyd
A recurrence can occur in the breast area after reconstruction, but will originate in the remaining breast tissue or skin (if applicable) — not in the reconstruction itself.