There’s no question about it: Once a positive diagnosis is made, breast cancer can consume you. The only thing on your mind may very well be just getting through the basic surgical process and looking forward to moving on to being healthy and cancer free. But, say experts, don’t overlook the role of the cosmetic surgeon on your breast cancer team.
“The cosmetic surgeon should be consulted right away, prior to any other surgery, and it should be joint effort between the plastic or cosmetic surgeon and the breast surgeon,” says Michael S. Kluska, DO, FAACS, FACOS, a board-certified plastic and cosmetic surgeon in Greensburg, Penn.
The cosmetic surgeon’s role is not only to help you understand your reconstructive options, but also to consult with the surgeon who will be doing your breast cancer surgery.
“We can then collaborate on technique, and let the surgeon know what options are available,” from a cosmetic standpoint, Dr. Kluska says. “These options could include using your own tissue, or using some type of implant for reconstruction, whether that’s a tissue expander or just a saline or silicone implant immediately at the time of mastectomy.”
This is important, says Dr. Kluska, because how that surgeon approaches your breast with the first cut influences your potential cosmetic outcome. So choose your cancer surgeon carefully, too, he advises. “You need to seek out multiple opinions. Don’t stop at just the general or breast surgeon. Seek out a cosmetic or plastic surgeon who has experience in reconstruction in order to get an opinion. His or her role is not only to educate you as the patient,” but to help plan the placement of incisions for optimum treatment of the cancer allow for the best cosmetic reconstruction.
Sharon Y. Giese, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon practicing and teaching in New York, agrees. Involving the cosmetic surgeon from the very beginning “gives women hope at the end of the tunnel—that they can have a nice looking (sometimes better looking) breast after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Sometimes a lumpectomy can be coordinated with a breast reduction/lift surgery.”
And sometimes cosmetic surgeons can perform a breast reduction or reconstruction with an implant at the same time cancer is removed. In addition, if you’re having just one breast removed and reconstructed simultaneously, it’s unlikely that your breasts will “match” after all is said and done.
“Swelling, final healing, possible changes from radiation can all change the reconstructed breast,” Dr. Giese says. “When all has settled out, many times it is necessary to operate on the other breast to match the reconstructed side. Some women are just happy to be alive and have gotten through the initial surgical experience and do not proceed with surgery on the other breast. I strongly encourage women to move ahead with this step. Women simply feel much better when things are more symmetric…. Insurance in mandated in most states to cover this type of surgery,” she adds.
For more information:
Dr. Michael Kluska
Dr. Sharon Geise
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Written by Staff Writer