MedWatch Today: Breast Reconstructive Surgery Options Offered at Community After Mastectomy

Med Watch Today

Breast cancer patients who have a mastectomy can be left with physical and emotional scars, but reconstructive surgery can help a woman look and feel better.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeons like Dr. Erich Lemker treat every breast cancer patient with a customized approach. He explains how some women feel after having a mastectomy.

“It’s a very deforming surgery, the mastectomy. And so it can be something that really affects their overall mental health and well being. It may be little things such as, they don’t feel right in clothes, and so then they choose not to go hang out with their friends, or go to a restaurant, and so it’s little things like that, that really affect the overall quality of life,” said Dr. Lemker.

It’s his job, he said, to help women with breast cancer feel better through the advances of reconstructive surgery.

The doctor stated, “We have three options for reconstruction: implant based, pathologist, or using their own tissue and then a combination of the two, often times the combination of the two we save as a backup option in case patients have difficulty with radiation or infection.”

Dr. Lemker said about 80-percent of his patients choose the implant route. But, some opt to have their own tissue used, which is a surgical procedure called a flap.

“Using your own tissue means that we often borrow tissue from another place on your body, usually the lower abdomen has ample donor tissue, and then we completely detach it and then reattach it to the chest in order to recreate the breast,” said Dr. Lemker.

He said there are pros and cons to both options. With implants, the surgery time is shorter and the recovery time is faster. However, with the flap surgery, “The benefit of that is once everything is done and healed, you’re much less likely to need revisions in the future, there’s no foreign bodies… and so it’s often a great way to maintain the durability of the operation.”

Dr. Lemker also explains, some women may have immediate reconstructive surgery, while some delay it.

“Immediate breast reconstruction is done at the time of mastectomy, and so it’s one surgery. The patient has the mastectomy and the reconstruction, so when they wake up, they never have to go through a period where they feel deformed or missing that tissue. Delayed reconstruction means that we don’t do it at the same time, and so often times that will be completed either after radiation, or sometimes patients just aren’t ready to go through the reconstructive process at the time of their mastectomy, and choose to delay it months to years later,” commented Dr. Lemker.

Dr. Lemker said reconstructive surgery can help a woman heal from the physical and emotional scars of a mastectomy.

He added, “They will often identify the reconstructive surgery as the one that cured them, not the mastectomy that removed the cancer. And so it’s a very, I think very important thing for overall mental health and well being… Our role here is really to help them make the best decision for them. There’s no right or wrong answer, and so we really want to explore where they are emotionally, what they’re going through, what their goals are, and then we try to customize any treatment that we do towards those goals.”

For more information on Community’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department, click here.

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