If you haven’t noticed a surplus of pink ribbons this month, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The highly skilled surgeons of Atlanta Plastic Surgery, P.C. have seen the affect this disease can have on men and women and understand the importance of breast cancer awareness and research. As reconstructive surgeons, they also recognize what an important step breast reconstruction is in the healing process and are happy to celebrate the first national Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day (BRA Day) this year on October 17th, 2012.
Unfortunately, many women simply do not know their options for breast reconstruction surgery. Upon diagnosis, doctors are more concerned—as they should be—with removing the cancer and saving the patient’s life. These physicians absolutely have their priorities straight because getting rid of the cancer is most important, but breast reconstruction options should be discussed as many women feel self-conscious and less feminine after mastectomy or lumpectomy (cancer removal surgery).
In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act into effect. According to this law, insurances (including group health plans, insurance companies, and health maintenance organizations) offering coverage for mastectomy must also offer coverage for certain services relating to mastectomy. These services include all stages of breast reconstruction on the breast(s) from which cancer was removed, cosmetic surgery of the unaffected breast to provide a symmetrical appearance (usually includes breast augmentation or breast reduction techniques), prostheses (implant), and treatment of any mastectomy surgical complications. Although insurance plans differ, it is important for breast cancer patients to explore their coverage options.
Besides not knowing their financial options regarding breast reconstruction, most women do not know their surgical options. As with any type of plastic surgery, the best treatment option depends on the patient’s needs and goals. Our surgeons offer multiple breast reconstruction options including: breast reconstruction using an implant, breast reconstruction with a tissue expander, and breast reconstruction using a tissue flap (TRAM, Latissimus, or DIEP flap).
Breast reconstruction using a breast implant is an option for patients who have enough healthy breast tissue left after cancer is removed to hold the implant. Patients who wish to have breast implants inserted after mastectomy that do not have enough lax skin for an implant may be good candidates for breast reconstruction with a tissue expander. During this technique, an inflatable device is inserted into the breast to encourage skin expansion and make room for the breast implant.
Some patients are more comfortable using their body’s own tissue for breast reconstruction than a breast implant. These patients are good candidates for tissue flap procedures, which use tissue taken from another area of the body to rebuild the breast mound. The TRAM flap procedure (transverse rectus abdominis muscle), uses tissue taken from the abdomen, while the Latissimus flap procedure uses tissue taken from the back. Unlike the TRAM and Latissimus flap procedures, the DIEP flap (deep inferior epigastric perforator) only harvests a patient’s skin and fat instead of including muscle.
In addition to the various options for breast reconstruction techniques, the timing of breast reconstruction provides more choices for a patient. Some patients may wish to pursue breast reconstruction at the same time cancer is removed, while others choose to have delayed reconstruction based on personal preference or the type of treatment they are receiving. If you’re researching your breast reconstruction options, schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons today.