Breast Reconstruction and Radiation

If you are currently fighting breast cancer and are considering a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, you may have already discussed some options with your oncologist. While oncologists are extremely well versed in fighting cancer, they may not be able to answer every question you may have about breast reconstruction post-mastectomy. Here are some frequent questions and answers your oncologist may not be able to give you about what you can expect following your surgery.

Q: I’ve heard radiation could change the size of the reconstructed breast post-reconstruction. Is this true?

A: The main concern for patients who undergo radiation post-reconstruction is something called capsular contracture. Capsular contracture is one of the most common complications of breast augmentation. It occurs when scar tissue around the implant creates a tight capsule around the breast implant itself. This capsule contracts, making the breast feel hard and changing its shape.

Many people aren’t aware that all implants – breast or otherwise – develop capsules around them. This is a normal part of the healing process. However, when that capsule begins to tighten or contract, it becomes a problem. In addition to changing the look and feel of your breast, capsular contraction can be very painful. The good news is that there is a procedure to correct this complication, so the condition is not permanent. If it does occur, we recommend waiting until your radiation is complete. The most important thing is killing off the cancer. After that, we can address any cosmetic repairs.

Q: Do I need to use the plastic surgeon my oncologist wants to use?

A: No. You are in control of your health care and your body. If you are unhappy for any reason with your oncologist’s recommended surgeon, it is your right to find a different surgeon. If your oncologist does have a plastic surgeon he or she likes to work with, schedule a consultation with that surgeon to discuss your surgical options and look at the surgeon’s portfolio of before and after photos.

Q: What should I look for if I choose to select my own surgeon?

A: If you are at all unhappy with your oncologist’s preferred surgeon, feel free to find your own plastic surgeon. Some important things to ask your potential surgeon include:
• Are you board certified?
• Have you performed breast reconstruction post-mastectomy?

If your surgeon has a portfolio of before and after photos, be sure to view it and give him or her an idea of what you are looking for in your reconstruction. Often women will have an augmentation and lift performed on both breasts even if one is healthy so the breasts match in size and shape. This allows you the opportunity to make changes to the shape and size of your breasts if you choose.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to call Dr. Chau today at 888-966-9471 and schedule a consultation.