Patients find hope in plastic surgery after breast cancer

Patients find hope in plastic surgery after breast cancer
Patients find hope in plastic surgery after breast cancer

Many mastectomy patients consider reconstruction surgery following breast cancer treatment, but oftentimes, it's not a decision made lightly. Undergoing breast reconstruction surgery not only presents a major change to your lifestyle, but can also affect one's body and mentality. However, by working closely with oncologists, plastic surgeons are helping breast cancer patients find new life and dignity in the wake of their intensive treatments. 

"So much of what we do is building back the person after what is a very disfiguring cancer," one plastic surgeon told local Illinois news outlet Journal Star. "When we reconstruct, especially with personal tissue, it gives that sense of self."

Because of various technological advancements in plastic surgery, many reconstruction procedures now use fat and skin grafts from the patient's own body. The tissue and blood vessels are usually taken from the abdomen or upper back and placed in the chest, creating a natural feel.

One Illinois-based plastic surgeon told the news source that the tissue flap procedure is what most patients who undergo radiation therapy tend to choose. However, it is not uncommon for breast cancer patients to receive implants, though those who do often need tissue expanders to help place the implant beneath the chest muscle. 

According to the news outlet, plastic surgeons are also seeing many non-cancer patients for breast reconstruction surgery due to "cancer phobia," as one plastic surgeon put it. Angelina Jolie's May 2013 New York Times Op-Ed detailing her preemptive double mastectomy helped bring to light the breast reconstruction options available to women who, like Jolie, carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and would like to lower their risk of breast cancer as much as possible. 

Before deciding on the right breast reconstruction surgery, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons recommends contacting both a board-certified plastic surgeon and your medical doctor in order to fully understand your health needs.