MIGHT MASTECTOMIES BECOME A THING OF THE PAST?

Oncoplastic surgery gives women with breast cancer new hope.

A few decades ago breast cancer diagnosis was devastating for women as proper treatment was not yet available to treat the condition.

However, there have been drastic improvements, which has resulted in an increase in the survival of patients due to additional treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy and the latest to be added, oncoplastic surgery.

Professor Frank Graewe, Head of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Stellenbosch, says that thirty years ago breast cancer surgery was straightforward: it meant having a mastectomy.

Professor Graewe says that plastic surgeons should be familiar with all of the different techniques in order to provide an optimal cosmetic outcome.

“For me as the senior member and convener of such a team, it has been an eye-opener to see the iteration taking place between the radiation oncologist and the plastic surgeon,” says Professor Justus Apffelstaedt from the University of Stellenbosch.

Nowadays, lumpectomies, tumor excisions, segmentectomies, quadrantectomies, skin sparing mastectomies, mastectomies and other procedures belong to the armament of the oncologic surgeon.

“For me as the senior member and convener of such a team, it has been an eye-opener to see the iteration taking place between the radiation oncologist and the plastic surgeon.”

How the surgery is performed

1. It involves a bilateral breast lift/reduction, which removes the breast tissue from the cancerous breast.

2. This process normally involves an incision around the breast, nipple and areola.

3. During the surgery it may be difficult for a surgeon to maintain blood supply to the nipple, which causes the nipple to be removed and replaced after the breast lift is complete. This process is called a “free nipple graft”.

Read more: 9 breast cancer myths you should know

What are the benefits?

According to John Hopkins Medicine, the benefits of having oncoplastic surgery, involve:

1. Having symmetric breasts after a lumpectomy.

2. No wound-healing issues occur with post-radiation surgery as surgery is completed prior to radiation.

3. The surgery does not require drains, meaning that a patient will only be required to spend one night and recovery time is 6 weeks.

Read more: What is the single factor that is key to beating breast cancer?

And the disadvantages?

The only problem with oncoplastic surgery is the procedure results in nipple numbness and inability to lactate.

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