Breast Reconstruction Following a Mastectomy

In light of the surging breast cancer publicity stirred by Angelina Jolie’s preventative medical decision, we sat down with Dr. Parva to get his opinion on the somewhat controversial topic. For Dr. Parva’s thoughts on Jolie’s actions, as well as his recommendations for women in similar circumstance, read our Q&A session with him below.

What do you think of Angelina Jolie’s decision to have both breasts removed as a preventative measure?

It is a very emotional and difficult decision for any woman to proactively choose mastectomies as a preventative measure, even when the science indicates that it is essentially inevitable she will develop breast cancer.

Do you have patients that have pursued this method of treatment? What would you recommend for patients in Jolie’s situation?

I have had patients at high risk who have made this difficult decision as well, and I have been privileged to assist them with their breast reconstruction. I would encourage women to first consider several key elements in their decision making process:

  1. Consult with a breast surgeon who is part of a comprehensive breast care team.
  2. Have a thorough evaluation with a genetic counselor.
  3. Meet with a board certified plastic surgeon who is also a member of the breast care center.
  4. Carefully consider the medical information and recommendations as you consider your decision with your family.

What would it take for you to recommend this approach?

After thorough evaluation and testing, if a woman is at high risk of developing breast cancer and she is highly motivated to achieve peace-of-mind by removing that threat, then I believe prophylactic mastectomy with reconstruction would be a good decision for her. However, major surgery like this also carries risk, and the final outcome, although often excellent, can still be a psychological and physical adjustment.

What other methods can patients pursue in place of this approach?

Another proven method of breast reconstruction is flap reconstruction. This involves using “flaps”, or tissue from another area of the body such as the tummy or back, to reconstruct the breast. Additionally, careful and regular surveillance is also an option for women at high risk who prefer not to undergo the surgery at this time.

Why is this an important conversation for all women to have? Do you feel Jolie was right to come out with this news?

Breast cancer risk is inescapable for all women. Fortunately, breast care awareness has increased in recent years. As celebrities such as Jolie share their personal stories, other women are likely to be more serious about breast care, and should they develop breast cancer or be at high risk, they are likely to feel more empowered to pursue treatment and to feel good about it. I believe Angelina made the right decision for herself. On the other hand, a woman at high risk who prefers to pursue close breast surveillance cannot be faulted for that decision.

Why is it important to raise awareness about multiple options when confronted with the need for cancer treatment and breast reconstruction?

Even with strong efforts to raise awareness in recent years, many women do not pursue appropriate breast care and are often unaware of treatment options, or even the availability of breast reconstruction. Education and encouragement empower women to care for their own health needs in the midst of busy careers and family life.

What else should patients know about breast reconstruction before treatment, both for breast cancer and during the reconstruction process?

For woman faced with breast cancer, or the strong likelihood of developing breast cancer based on genetic testing, breast reconstruction results can look very natural and restore a woman’s sense of wholeness and femininity. It is, of course, major surgery, and with the benefits come the risks that should be carefully considered and reviewed with one’s reconstructive surgeon. Seek a board certified plastic surgeon that is experienced and works with a breast care team. Ask questions. Keep your family and loved ones close for their love and support. Stay strong, and remain hopeful.

Contact Parva Plastic Surgery

For more information regarding mastectomies and breast reconstruction, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Parva, please contact Parva Plastic Surgery today.

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