The breast is the most common site of cancer in American women and breast cancer will develop in 1 of every 8 to 9 women in their lifetime. Although a cure has not yet been found, breast cancer is now detected earlier and there are now improved modes of treatment. Still, being diagnosed with breast cancer is frightening, confusing and earth shattering. Our team at Parva Plastic Surgery sees the hope, determination and personal victories in the lives of our many breast cancer patients.
Women are often faced with decisions and feel ill-prepared to make them. Some important questions they have to ask themselves include:
- Do I have a mastectomy or lumpectomy?
- Immediate or delayed breast reconstruction?
- Should reconstruction even be considered?
Statistically, only 35% of women with breast cancer undergo breast reconstruction. Unfortunately, that is not by choice, but most often because many women are not aware of reconstruction and the options available to them. States have begun passing legislation that requires all women with a diagnosis of breast cancer to be referred to a Plastic Surgeon so they can be informed of their individual options. Regardless of legislative efforts, as Plastic Surgeons committed to the care of our breast cancer patients, we have an obligation to increase public awareness and to expand physician awareness so breast cancer patients receive optimal, individualized care.
Women who have undergone breast reconstruction have said that the procedure alleviates the pain of losing a breast and improves their self-esteem and self confidence. In fact, many can begin the breast reconstruction at the time of a mastectomy therefore, minimizing the feeling of loss associated with a mastectomy. Conversely, other women may choose to proceed with breast reconstruction months or even years after their mastectomy (delayed reconstruction). With the many options and advances available today, every woman diagnosed with breast cancer should seriously consider her reconstructive options, as well as the cancer treatment options.
For optimal care and results, Dr. Parva strongly supports referral to a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for everyone diagnosed with breast cancer. Even if the desire is for breast conservation, such as lumpectomy and radiation, coordinated care between the team of breast surgeon and plastic surgeon can optimize the final outcome in treating the cancer and achieving the best aesthetic appearance of the breast.
Everyone should also be aware of The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, requiring group health plans and health insurers to cover the cost of reconstructive breast surgery for women requiring treatment for breast cancer. Coverage also includes surgery on the other breast to achieve symmetry.
Some common myths about breast reconstruction should be clarified:
- Will immediate breast reconstruction delay or interfere with chemotherapy? No.
- Does breast reconstruction increase the risk of cancer recurrence or hide the presence of cancer? There is no scientific evidence of this.
“Dear Dr. Parva,
I wanted to thank you so very much for all of your wonderful care! I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary last Friday. All of your talents and ‘thoughtfulnesses’ are so very much appreciated.”
What are My Breast Reconstruction Options?
To guide you in your decision making, Dr. Parva, serving patients in Northern Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Loudoun and Fairfax Counties will help you through the following decision tree:
- Do I want breast reconstruction or not?
- If so, am I interested in immediate breast reconstruction at the time of mastectomy or a delayed reconstruction sometime in the future?
- Based on my discussion with my breast surgeon, do I plan a mastectomy or a lumpectomy?
- If lumpectomy, what recommendations does my plastic surgeon have for shaping the breast and improving symmetry with the other breast?
- Do I prefer using implants or my own tissue for the reconstruction, and am I a good candidate for one or the other?
- What is the timeline for my treatment course and what secondary procedures might I expect?