Although most women who consider breast reconstruction do so following mastectomy, many women who have a lumpectomy to treat breast cancer are candidates for reconstruction. In the following guest blog plastic surgeon Dr. Nirav Savalia explains the philosophy behind oncoplastic breast reconstruction and its benefits.
What Is Oncoplastic Breast Reconstruction?
Following a breast cancer diagnosis, many women are often overwhelmed by their diagnosis and treatment plan. Then they have the added worry of how their breasts will look after a medically necessary lumpectomy or mastectomy. Thankfully, advancements in surgical techniques offer the right lumpectomy candidates a better breast reconstruction method known as oncoplastic reconstruction surgery. Oncoplastic surgery successfully removes the cancer while saving as much natural breast tissue as possible and addressing cosmetic concerns at the same time.
Simply put, oncoplastic reconstruction is oncological (cancer) surgery combined with reconstructive breast surgery, all in one procedure. Oncoplastic reconstruction is ideal for women whose cancer necessitates a lumpectomy that would dramatically alter the appearance of the breast.
During the procedure, the removal of any unhealthy tissue by the cancer surgeon is the first and most important step. After this, I reshape the affected breast by repositioning the remaining tissue and redraping the skin for more natural-looking contours. Next, if needed, I can modify the opposite, healthy breast to improve symmetry, sometimes through tissue removal, a breast lift or a combination of the two. The ultimate goal is to effectively address both the health and aesthetic aspects of breast cancer surgery, while preserving as much natural tissue as possible.
Oncoplastic Breast Reconstruction Benefits
Here are the major ways women can benefit from this reconstructive technique. Oncoplastic breast surgery:
- allows the cancer surgeon to make a wider excision around the tumor without compromising aesthetics.
- requires just one operation that combines cancer removal and reconstruction of the breast ("immediate" reconstruction).
- in many cases can be combined with intraoperative, single-dose radiation treatment, eliminating the need for 6 weeks of follow-up radiation appointments.
- can be performed for women with both noninvasive (DCIS) and invasive breast cancer.
- is covered by major insurance plans as any other reconstruction method.
- saves more natural breast tissue, helping me to create a more satisfying and natural-looking result compared to traditional reconstructive techniques.
As with every surgery, not every woman is a candidate for an oncoplastic procedure. While the simultaneous approach and tissue-saving aspects of the surgery may appeal to some women, delaying the reconstruction process may be more appropriate or preferable for others. Sometimes the thought of dealing with reconstruction while also participating in a treatment plan is simply too much, while in other cases, reconstruction may be better delayed until cancer treatment is complete. Consulting with an experienced breast reconstruction specialist can help you decide which options are best for you.
Dr. Savalia has been performing oncoplastic breast reconstruction with a team of cancer specialists at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California for many years.