12 October 2019

This Month Matters, Stay Abreast

This Month Matters, Stay Abreast

October is breast cancer awareness month – and Wednesday 16th is Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day. Why delegate a day specifically to reconstruction? To put an end to the unknown – all women deserve to know their options following post-mastectomy breast cancer surgery. According to a study published by the Breast Cancer Organisation, more than half of breast cancer patients don’t get enough information around reconstruction. Worldwide, only a third of women who undergo a mastectomy undergo breast reconstruction, and in New Zealand that number stands at just 10%.

However, increasing awareness about reconstruction opportunities for breast patients’ needs to extend beyond implant speak, because it there is no one-size-fits-all. It’s an experience that is driven by personal preference, wellness, and short and long-term goals and expectations – including self-confidence. Specialist reconstructive surgeons, like our very own Adam Bialostocki and Brandon Adams, are continually working with patients to achieve long-lasting, natural reconstructive results post-surgery - taking a very individual approach. For example, this can involve using tissue from a women’s own body, such as the abdomen to form a breast, alongside implant use.

So, what are the two many breast reconstructive procedures available to Kiwi women – and how do you know which is best for you?

Breast Flap Reconstruction: This commonly used technique involves uses flaps of your own tissue – sometimes with the addition of an implant too – to reconstruct your breast/breasts. This includes taking skin, fat and sometimes muscle, from your back, bottom, inner thighs or lower abdomen. The flaps are then reshaped to form a new breast. When is flap reconstruction most commonly used? Typically, it is used in delayed reconstruction – especially if radio therapy has or is being administered. Why not implants? Because radiotherapy may cause the skin around the implants to shrink which can ultimately cause scar tissue and may interfere with healing and potential implant leaks. Flap reconstruction is well suited to women with moderate-to-large sized breasts as these have a natural droop. For those wanting a good match for their other breast long-term, tissue reconstruction can provide a better partner as this will naturally conform to gravity, weight changes and aging – as opposed to an implant which may end up sitting higher in the chest wall.

Breast Implant Reconstruction: The procedure involves inserting an implant under the skin and muscle to restore the shape and volume of your breast. It can be less extensive and involved than flap surgery – no additional tissue requirements needed – and it is often recommended for women with smaller breasts. Breast implant reconstruction lends itself to a more natural breast shape, which is firmer – however it may move less naturally than a flap reconstruction and sit higher – as age, gravity and weight loss affect the other natural breast. Implant considerations to stay abreast of . . .

- As implants have no fixed life span (average lifespan 10years), these will need to be replaced.

- For those opting for delayed breast implant reconstruction, a permanent or temporary tissue expander will be placed behind the chest muscle. Why? This will ensure the implant sits in the right place and will disguise its outline. After several weeks after the expander has been inserted, your surgeon will inject the implant with a saline solution to inflate it.

Additional considerations . . . What many of us don’t realise, is that breast reconstructive procedures don’t have to be carried out immediately following a mastectomy – reconstruction can happen months, even years, following breast cancer treatment. No matter the time of surgery, post-breast surgery support and ongoing guidance is as essential to surgeons as it is to patients. With any breast matters it is essential we arm ourselves with the best advice, guidance and support – always – let’s connect to reconstruct.