Women who want to consider breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy or lumpectomy have more choices than ever with advances in technology that lead to better early detection as well as improved surgery options.
Dr. William L. Hickerson, medical director of Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center, wrote about breast reconstruction options in the October issue of Memphis Health and Fitness magazine. Dr. Hickerson is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery and has performed countless plastic surgeries for more than 30 years. His expertise in skin substitutes and reconstructive surgery has earned him global recognition.
The breast reconstruction surgery options for women depend on a number of factors that include what stage the cancer is in when discovered, what treatments are chosen, and the patient’s overall condition and size of the breasts. Dr. Hickerson takes a team approach with each patient to discuss all the options to then create a plan together.
Approaches are different, depending on if the woman had a lumpectomy – a breast-conserving surgery that removes only the tumor and some surrounding tissue – or a mastectomy, which removes all tissue in the affected breast.
In breast reconstruction, surgeons create a breast shape using an artificial implant, a flap of tissue from another place on the patient’s body, or sometimes a combination of both. Implants are filled with saline, silicone gel, or a combination of the two.
“Reconstruction has progressed to the point of being more refined, and patient satisfaction is markedly better than in years past when patients had concerns about a possible defect in the implant,” Dr. Hickerson said.
Those silicone implants of old no longer exist, Dr. Hickerson added. Today’s implants now consist of a cohesive gel with a more natural look and feel.
Dr. Hickerson and his team don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to breast reconstruction surgery. In fact, the only consistent element is that tumor removal is first priority. Beyond that, Dr. Hickerson said, all patients should talk to their surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon to come to an agreement on the best approach for tumor removal and breast reconstruction.