Immediate and delayed breast reconstruction — which will suit you better
Posted on 2nd April 2022 at 16:27
According to research charity Breast Cancer Now, 1 in 7 women will contract breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. And although survival rates are improving, it’s a disease that kills one person every minute in the UK. Regular symptom checking — for lumps, rashes, swelling, and changes in the breast area — can help to catch breast cancer early. But if you’re among the many women currently being treated, you need to know your options post-mastectomy.
Of course, the breast doesn’t always have to be completely removed. In many cases, a lumpectomy (partial mastectomy) is enough. Even so, many women opt for reconstruction surgery to create a more even look between breasts. Whatever your situation, be sure to talk to your surgeon about the best option for you.
Immediate and delayed breast reconstruction
Breast reconstruction surgery plays a central role in cancer treatment. For many patients, it’s a way to feel good in their clothes again and regain confidence. For others, it represents a step towards normality after the emotional upheaval of life with cancer.
There are two points at which breast reconstruction can be carried out. Immediate breast reconstruction surgery is when the operation is performed at the same time as the mastectomy. Delayed reconstruction surgery is conducted some months following the mastectomy.
Surgical techniques also differ. In some cases, implants are used to replace all or some of the breast tissue. Other times, tissue may be harvested from elsewhere on the patient’s body (autologous, or “flap” reconstruction). Your doctor can advise on the most appropriate surgery to suit your situation.
Although these surgeries are available on the NHS, waiting times can be unbearably long. According to a recent press release from @BreastCancerNow, more than 1,500 breast cancer patients are waiting months and possibly years due to delays following the COVID pandemic.
The pros and cons of immediate breast reconstruction
With less than 20% of patients having the mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time, this is by far the less common route. However, there are many benefits to undergoing reconstruction and mastectomy at the same time. An immediate reconstruction gives patients a new breast mound straight away. With this option, women wake up from their mastectomy with a newly reconstructed breast. And although results are rarely perfect, the aesthetic appearance tends to be better with this option. This is because the surgeon is usually able to use the breast skin you already have. There is typically less scarring, too. And with two procedures combined in a single operation, there’s less hospital time.
There are some drawbacks to this option. Any radiation therapy treatment after the surgery will change how the reconstruction looks. As such, your doctor may advise against immediate reconstructive surgery.
For those who do take this route, time is required to think about what type of reconstruction to get. And as it’s a more complex operation, the recovery time is longer. Another thing to bear in mind is that further surgery may be required. If your nipple has to be removed during the mastectomy, nipple reconstruction is typically carried out several months after breast reconstruction is complete.
The pros and cons of delayed breast reconstruction – A very personal choice
Some women get mastectomies and finish their cancer treatment before going ahead with a delayed reconstruction surgery. With this option, there’s the benefit of having plenty of time to think about what you want from your reconstruction surgery. And as you will have finished your cancer treatment (chemo, breast cancer surgery and radiotherapy), the final outcome following surgery may be more predictable.
However, there are downsides of taking this route, too. Aesthetics are one of the major things to consider. With delayed reconstruction, there’s a possibility of a larger, unsightly scar on the reconstructed breast. As such, you may have to have more surgery to get the cosmetic effect you were looking for.
Either way, some women decide not to go ahead with reconstruction surgery at all. With weekly or 3 weekly chemo sessions and the emotional drain of cancer taking its toll, more hospital time just isn’t a desirable option for many patients. It’s a very personal decision.
One healthcare professional who is well versed in reconstruction surgery is specialist breast cancer surgeon, Naren Basu. Naren was previously the Lead Consultant Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon at Birmingham’s Solihull Hospital. More recently, he has taken up the role of Transformation Lead for the NHS’ breast services in Birmingham. He does this alongside running his own one-stop breast clinic based in the Midlands.
Breast cancer surgery is one of Naren’s main areas of specialisation. And as an oncoplastic surgeon, he integrates plastic surgical techniques into breast reconstruction surgery for the best possible aesthetic results. As such, patients get good cosmetic outcomes without compromising on disease control.
Naren’s other area of interest lies in breast cancer genetics. He holds a doctorate on the subject and has published widely on hereditary breast cancers. His private clinic, NB Breast Surgery, is home to the region’s only independent family history clinic. Offering risk assessment and genetic testing for women with a family history of breast cancer, it’s a valuable — and little-known — resource.
Risk assessment begins with a full investigation into a patient’s family history with cancers. Then, there are multiple gene tests — including BRCA1/2 testing — to be carried out. The clinic also offers breast cancer screening, cancer-related lifestyle advice, and chemoprevention.
Working from hospitals in Birmingham, Edgbaston, Solihull, and Sutton Coldfield, Naren’s clinic provides a one-stop service for women affected by cancer.
So, if you’re worried about your family history of cancers, or are considering breast reconstruction surgery, get in touch today. You’ll be in safe hands.
Tagged as: breast reconstruction
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