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Breast cancer patients facing radiation often are advised to put off breast reconstruction surgery until after their treatment. A new study, however, indicates that having reconstructive surgery immediately following mastectomy is safe.
The University of California, Los Angeles, study tracked 170 women with advanced tumors who had immediate reconstructive surgery after either partial or complete mastectomy. The study included 13 women who had both breasts reconstructed. Most of the surgeries were done with TRAM flaps – or tissue from the abdominal area.
Results showed complications in just eight women, which caused a maximum three-week delay in further cancer treatments involving chemotherapy or radiation. These delays were not considered unreasonable or dangerous, the researchers said.
“These findings make a strong argument for immediate reconstruction regardless of cancer stage,” says UCLA’s Dr. Christopher A. Crisera, a study participant.
During follow-up, 15 women were found to have recurrent cancers, and their immediate reconstructions did not affect the identification of these tumors.
Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to both immediate and delayed breast reconstruction. For some women, delaying reconstruction may give them more time to focus on treatments instead of reconstruction recovery. However, immediate reconstruction can spare patients additional surgeries and interruptions in her life. The primary drawback is that it requires a longer surgery and recovery than just having mastectomies alone.
More information about breast reconstructive surgery can be found at the American Cancer Society and at BreastReconstruction.org.
August 8, 2011