Treat the cancer first
The treatment of breast cancer usually involves surgical removal of the cancerous tissue. When the surgery is limited to just the cancer and the surrounding tissue, it is known as a lumpectomy. When the surgery removes all of the breast tissue, it is known as a mastectomy. Depending on the type and extent of the cancer, additional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may be recommended. The time frame for administering these additional therapies can be quite specific, and should not be delayed by other interventions, such as breast reconstruction.
We often counsel our patients who are considering a breast reconstruction immediately after mastectomy that these added procedures, while very important to improving quality of life, are not life-saving. It is also important that these patients understand that reconstruction can always be delayed and electively done well after their mastectomy surgery and other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are finished.
A Radiation Oncologist on KevinMD.com seems to share our views on this matter and describes one patient’s story where a tissue expander / implant reconstruction delayed her cancer therapy. Their article can be read here. While stories such as this one highlight the importance of treating the cancer first, in many cases, a reconstruction can be done immediately after a mastectomy. An open dialogue between all members of the breast cancer treatment team – including the Breast Surgeon, Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, and Reconstructive Surgeon – can help patients choose a cancer treatment plan that appropriately weighs the risks and benefits of immediate reconstruction.