SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Fighting breast cancer

October 16, 2012

7 fears about reconstruction debunked

To reconstruct or not to reconstruct -- it's one of the toughest questions a woman faces following a mastectomy. Here's the information needed to make an informed decision.

(Continued)

“One can do a delayed reconstruction. But if one can get it together and really make a decision upfront, there’s some economies of scale, so to speak,” says Dr. John Link, author of “The Breast Cancer Survival Manual, 5th Edition” (August 2012, Holt Paperbacks) and director and founder of Breastlink Medical Group, a comprehensive breast cancer treatment group in Orange, Calif.

There are a variety of types of reconstruction, he says. One is a silicone implant. The second type is where fat and skin are brought in from somewhere else to create the new breast. The third option is a hybrid of both.

“When the breast implant is put in after the mastectomy, it eliminates an added surgery,” Link says. “In our practice, 90 percent of women have immediate reconstruction. Those women who deny it are more likely to do it because of age or underlying health issues like pacemakers, severe obesity, diabetes or heart failure.”

Fear #2: If I have to have radiation or chemotherapy, I can’t have reconstruction until it is over.

“Each person receives different treatment and depending upon that treatment, a decision should be made with discussions between the woman and her health care team,” Rakoff says. “Women should be informed that radiation does have an effect upon the skin and can limit the reconstructive choices.”

Fear #3: It is too dangerous to have reconstruction when you have an aggressive form of cancer.

“No,” Russell says. “Even if women are dying of breast cancer, they deserve to have any type of body they want. You just have to make sure a patient is healthy enough to go through the surgery.”

Fear #4: If I don’t have reconstruction, I’ll never feel like a “woman” again.

“There are many women of all ages who have chosen not to have reconstruction and are beautiful, sexy women,” Rakoff says. “I know several who were diagnosed in their 20s, married after breast cancer and had children. They and their partners feel they are lovely, wonderful “women.”

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