Do Chemo and Radiation Impact My Breast Reconstruction?

Many women diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing treatment are anxious to get back to what they once called a normal life. If a patient chooses to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, it could be yet another challenging transition. Part of a treatment plan may require continuing with chemotherapy and radiation. Is breast reconstruction still possible at the same time?

Your Treatment Comes First
Dr. Comizio believes that a treatment plan is the first and foremost priority once a woman has received a breast cancer diagnosis. The type of treatment plan is very individual and personal – and differs between patients. Dr. Comizio and her team will partners with every patient and their oncologists to determine the best timing and solutions to ensure there is a plan of action, especially if it involves reconstructive surgery. The most important thing is the patient’s health and fastest path for recovery.

Breast Reconstruction with Chemotherapy or Radiation
In the past, it was believed breast reconstruction surgery should be delayed until chemotherapy treatments were finished. This has changed. New research indicates that breast reconstruction – either with breast implants or flap reconstruction using your body’s own tissue, is completely safe if you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Additionally, many chemotherapy and radiation patients who choose to have immediate breast reconstruction, or breast reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, report that regaining their figure helps boost their confidence and gives them extra energy as they are undergoing chemo treatments. Breast reconstruction can be performed using implants or body tissue, with some caveats. Breast cancer patients desiring an immediate breast reconstruction can have implants placed or have flap reconstruction.

Available flap reconstruction surgeries include:

Latissimus Dorsi Flap
This procedure harvests tissue from a patient’s back to reconstruct the breasts. This is an ideal solution for women with small breasts because the smaller tissue size allows them to match their former breast size and shape. Alternatively, this procedure can be combined with an implant to achieve a broad array of sizes and shapes. It is also a good option for woman who are thin, would like to avoid scarring on their abdomen, desire future pregnancies, and have had previous scarring on the abdomen.

TRAM flap
This procedure harvests tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breasts. The surgeon removes tissue — including muscle. This is an ideal solution for women with naturally droopy breasts because it allows them to match their former breast size and shape.

This is a newer procedure, similar to a TRAM flap, that uses tissue from the abdomen to reconstruct the breasts, but only skin and fat are removed. Most of the abdominal muscle is left in place and minimal muscle tissue is taken to form the new breast. An advantage to this type of breast reconstruction is that you’ll retain more strength in your abdomen. This is an ideal solution for women with large, natural breasts.

This procedure also uses abdominal tissue but mostly from the lower abdomen and relies on blood vessels that aren’t as deep within the abdomen. This provides a less invasive option, but not all women’s SIEA blood vessels are adequate for this type of flap surgery. In addition, due to the harvest site, women who have had a C-section, hysterectomy or tummy tuck aren’t eligible for a SIEA flap breast reconstruction.

If there is not sufficient tissue to harvest from the abdomen, another consideration can be a SGAP flap, which utilizes tissue from your upper buttocks and hips.

PAP Flap
A PAP flap is mostly for women who would like smaller breasts. If there is not sufficient abdominal tissue to harvest, a PAP flap takes tissue from the thighs to reconstruct the breasts.

There are many solutions to consider and each one is personalized to each patient. Dr. Comizio understands that many breast cancer patients desiring breast reconstruction surgery never thought they’d have plastic surgery, and therefore, have a lot of questions to ask. She will work one-on-one with you to ensure you are confident in the decision.

Schedule a consultation with Dr. Comizio to review your complete medical history, understand your treatment plan and discuss the best breast reconstruction options specific to you and your body: (973) 775-9248 or from our website.