October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a worldwide annual campaign involving thousands of organisations, to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. It is estimated that around a quarter of the women diagnosed with breast cancer each year in England undergo a mastectomy. Of those, around one third opt to have breast reconstruction, with a significant proportion choosing delayed reconstruction, after they are better recovered from their surgery and treatment (source: Breast Cancer Now).
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Mr Hyder Ridha, Consultant Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeon at One Hatfield Hospital, to tell us more about breast reconstruction.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is surgery that restores the shape and volume of a breast following its complete or partial removal as occurs during the treatment of breast cancer.
Who is eligible for breast reconstruction and when is it performed?
Any woman who is about to undergo or has had surgery for the treatment of breast cancer should have the opportunity to discuss her breast reconstructive options if she wishes.
Breast reconstruction can be performed as an immediate (at the time of the mastectomy or primary excision) or as a delayed procedure (at a subsequent date to the mastectomy or excision surgery). The decision with regards to the timing is discussed and planned during the initial consultation. Factors that are considered include the patients’ preference and whether any further treatment is required such as chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
What does the surgery involve?
There are many different types of breast reconstruction available. They are broadly divided into implant based or autologous (using the patient’s own tissue). The complexity varies from simple procedures such as fat transfer to more complex microsurgical procedures. The type selected depends on many factors which include:
– The need to reconstruct part or a complete breast
– The size of the original breast that the reconstruction needs to match
– Any planned further breast cancer treatment
– General health of the patient
These factors are all taken into consideration and together, both patient and reconstructive surgeon select the type of reconstruction that best meets the patient’s needs.
How long is the recovery time?
This depends on the type of reconstruction and can vary from a day case procedure and a week of recovery to a procedure that requires a hospital stay and a 6 week recovery.
What results can patients expect? Is there any need to have repeat surgery in the future?
Breast reconstruction aims to restore the shape and volume of the breast. This helps restore confidence and is an integral part of the road to recovery.
Depending on the type of reconstruction performed, further surgery may be required in the future to maintain the breast mound created.
Are there any contraindications?
The variety of reconstructive options available allows almost any woman who wishes to have some form of breast reconstruction to do so. Certain reconstructions may not be advisable or possible due to specific factors. These are discussed as part of the consultation with the reconstructive surgeon.
Are there any risks?
All treatments have risk, and this is also the case with reconstructive surgery. The risks vary, depending on the type of reconstruction undertaken. These are discussed as part of the consultation to allow a well informed decision regarding the reconstruction selected.
How long after consultation can the surgery be performed?
Surgery is performed once careful consideration of the benefits and risks of the reconstructions considered have been made. This ensures patients are given time to allow them to make a well informed decision.