A recent CNN story tells the story of breast cancer patient Elizabeth Anderson and how she found a breast reconstruction procedure that would work for her. The story highlights the need for plastic surgeons to be involved in the treatment of breast cancer patients and says that 7 in 10 breast cancer survivors may be unaware of breast reconstruction options.
After learning she had advanced breast cancer in 2009, Anderson had a bilateral mastectomy one month after the diagnosis. Because she had radiation, she was not a good candidate for breast implants, so she wore breast prostheses, but found them cumbersome.
During a chance visit to a different radiologist toward the end of her treatment, she learned about bilateral delayed breast reconstruction, a relatively new procedure — pioneered within the last decade — where doctors “re-create breasts using fatty tissue taken from other parts of the patient’s body, often from the buttocks, the abdomen or the back.”
Anderson says neither her oncologist nor her regular radiologist mentioned this type of surgery while she was being treated.
“Those who diagnose breast cancer and those who do mastectomy are separate from the plastic surgeons who do the reconstruction,” explains Dr. Frank DellaCroce, a surgeon at the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Anderson’s breast reconstruction was performed.
“Integration of those two sides affords a global conversation with the patient before mastectomy,” he says.
“That is absolutely the case,” agrees Dr. Ann Partridge, clinical director of the Breast Oncology Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “Medicine is not a solo-practitioner profession anymore; we need to work as teams for a better outcome.”
Partridge does note that new therapies may not be available in all areas of the U.S., and if it’s not available where the patient is being treated, it may not be considered a viable option by the oncologist. For example, Anderson traveled from Naples to New Orleans for her reconstruction.
Partridge and DellaCroce do agree that reconstruction should be discussed as soon as possible, because having the option is an important aspect in the patient’s recovery.