Following treatment for breast cancer
By Colton McNichols, MD
Mastectomy is a surgery that removes a person’s breast. It is needed when breast cancer cannot be treated with removal of just a portion of the breast (lumpectomy) or other treatment. Sometimes an individual with breast cancer may choose mastectomy over breast-conserving surgery when he or she is at high risk of getting a second breast cancer, or for personal reasons.
Living with changes in appearance after a mastectomy is a sensitive issue for breast cancer patients. The decision to undergo breast reconstruction is emotional and personal. When I speak with a patient about options, I begin with a whole-person approach, which is founded on respect and compassion. Every woman and her body are unique. We talk about the patient’s vision for her body, why reconstruction could be a good choice, and what she hopes to achieve so we can work for an outcome that restores confidence. Throughout the process we focus on meeting her goals for breast shape, size and fullness to allow her to look and feel her best.
Today most women who undergo mastectomy have the option to receive an implant to reconstruct and reshape their breast(s). Immediate reconstruction means the reconstruction can be done – or at least started – at the time of mastectomy. Delayed reconstruction is done after incisions heal and breast cancer treatment is complete. Occasionally, women delay reconstruction for months or years following a mastectomy.
When performing immediate breast reconstructive surgery, I usually work alongside fellowship-trained breast surgeon, Elizabeth Butler, DO, of Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute at Liberty Hospital. Dr. Butler, breast radiologist Amy Patel, MD, and I believe in treating patients as individuals and providing education that allows them to choose what is best for them.
At Liberty Hospital, we are building a program for breast cancer patients that provides the most up-to-date reconstructive techniques in collaboration with surgical, medical and radiation oncology that centers on providing compassionate and technologically advanced care for those who would like to restore their breast(s).
We understand the decision to undergo breast reconstruction is a personal one. Research shows that women who choose reconstruction after a mastectomy may experience an improvement in emotional and psychological mindset during recovery, as opposed to mastectomy with no reconstruction. While the choice is every woman’s to make, our team is here to ensure her decision is met with the best experience and outcome possible.