A mastectomy (surgical removal of a breast) or lumpectomy (surgical removal of only a cancerous breast tumor and a rim of its adjacent tissue) are often followed by radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is advised to kill any residual cancer cells in the afflicted breast, or around the excised tumor and is usually recommended if after surgery the risk of cancer recurrence yet remains high or likely.
Because radiation therapy can prevent further bouts of cancer, a lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is often called “breast-preservation surgery.” Breast reconstruction is then done to correct the cosmetic appearance of the breasts and restore them visually to as close to their original form as possible, or to whatever form the patient now desires.
When is the best time to get implants after a mastectomy?
The best time for breast implants or breast reconstruction surgery to be done is after the full course of radiation therapy has been carried out. Radiation therapy is usually done over the course of several weeks with a small dose applied daily or every several days. Breast reconstruction is best done after the radiation therapy is completed, to reduce the risk of complications and to provide the patient the best possible outcome.
What happens if radiation is used on breast implants?
If radiation therapy is used on breast implants, it can cause scarring or hardening of the implant itself, which leads to a less desirable cosmetic appearance as well as to the possibility of chronic pain developing in the breast, which may require that the implant be removed or replaced. Thus, breast reconstruction is recommended for after radiation therapy is complete.
What are my breast augmentation options after radiation therapy?
After radiation therapy, many patients are curious as to their options for breast reconstruction. When your radiation therapy is completed, you and your doctor will want to consider the possibilities and weigh the pros and cons of breast reconstruction done both with, and without, breast implants. You will discuss two techniques for breast reconstruction, each of which have several sub options:
1. Breast Reconstruction With Implants
This option uses traditional breast implants of either saline or silicone. It is simpler to perform and easier to undergo and recover from, but is typically more prone to postoperative problems that may require correction some years later, or replacement of the implant(s) 10 to 20 years after the surgery, when their lifetime has expired.
Some of the advantages of this method include its suitability for thinner patients who may lack sufficient fatty deposits to harvest from, that the required surgery is shorter and less complicated, and that it makes use of the existing mastectomy incisions rather than producing new ones.
2. Breast Reconstruction With Transplanted Tissue: “Autologous” or “Flap” Reconstruction.
The second option uses tissue taken from other parts of the body to reconstruct the breast(s). This option may also include use of an implant, but it is mainly done using only tissue from the patient. Some of the “flap” options require more involved surgeries and longer recovery periods, with the benefits being that this option can also last a lifetime.
Among the many flap options available for breast reconstruction after radiation include:
- DIEP Flap: In this procedure, fat, skin and blood vessels are taken from the lower belly and moved up to the chest to rebuild the breast. The procedure is straightforward and its recovery period is smooth, however not all surgeons are adept at the required surgical skills.
- SGAP Flap: In this procedure, fat, skin and blood vessels are taken from the upper buttocks or the hip and moved up to the chest for breast reconstruction. This is a choice option for women requiring reconstruction of both breasts (where the DIEP flap for instance, can only be done once; for one breast.)
- TUG Flap: The TUG flap reconstruction method takes skin, fat, muscle and blood vessels from the upper thigh and moves them to the chest for breast reconstruction. This is a good option for patients who lack sufficient tissue for other procedures. If the breast being matched is large, an implant may be required.
Top Breast Reconstruction Surgeon
Advances in cosmetic surgery have opened up a wide variety of options for breast reconstruction, even for those who have undergone radiation therapy. As a top breast surgeon in Phoenix, qualified in reconstructive and plastic surgery, Dr. Andres will be happy to go over the many available options with you personally. Rest assured, Andres Plastic Surgery can assist you and we look forward to helping.
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