Wednesday, November 22

Breast Cancer Recovery: Implants or Surgery

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Breast cancer has ranked number one cancer among Indian females. Most women prefers breast implants to recover from the aftermath of this unfortunate situation. Dr Mohan Thomas, Cosmetic Surgeon, Cosmetic Surgery Institute suggests Reconstructive surgery as well. Here's all you need to know about breast cancer treatments and recovery processes.

Breast Cancer begins when healthy cells in the breast change and grow out of control, forming a mass or sheet of cells called a tumor. Breast Cancer is asymptomatic; however those diagnosed with breast cancer often as treatment have to be operated upon. As part of the surgery, along with the tumour, breast tissues surrounding it are also removed; hence to look proportionate some women opt for breast implant.

Mostly, women with breast cancer do not have any signs or symptoms when diagnosed. The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown but it is often caused due to damage to a cell’s DNA. This causes the cells to divide in a disorderly manner. However, there are certain breast changes that can be experienced by women themselves. The only way a breast cancer can be treated completely is by a combination of Surgery with Radiation or Chemotherapy. Surgery involves removing the tumour as well as normal breast tissue surrounding it so that there is no trace of cancer cells.

Treatment:

Lumpectomy – This is a breast conservation surgery which is offered for ladies who have early breast cancer. This surgery maintains the shape of the breast but is usually associated with Radiation therapy.

Mastectomy- This surgery involves removing the complete breast so that the chance of having cancer recurrence is significantly reduced. All patients are offered this procedure as part of a surgical treatment plan.

Who can opt for an Implant?

Usually people having stage I or II breast cancer are eligible for immediate reconstruction. The criterion for immediate reconstruction is based on the presence of sufficient skin and muscle cover after cancer surgery so that the breast implant is covered by healthy tissue. Those people who have been operated upon and are free from the disease are eligible for implant based reconstruction. This can be done immediately after breast removal in the same surgery if the Cancer Surgeon is sure about clearance from the disease or a delayed reconstruction is possible after completing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Immediate reconstruction using Implants can best maintain the shape and size of the breast so that the woman does not feel psychologically low due to the loss of her breast. For people in whom immediate reconstruction is not possible either due to the advanced stage of the disease or paucity of tissues, a staged reconstruction few months after Radiation and chemotherapy is suggested.

Implant awareness in India:

In the western World where information about Breast reconstruction is widespread, Implant based reconstructions number about 30 % of all people undergoing breast removal (mastectomy) surgery. In the Indian scenario, such reconstructions even though common have not reached measurable proportions. These are usually chosen by younger females having an early stage disease. Most women are happy to be just disease free and do not care about having a breast less.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer:

• A swelling or a knot in the breast and/ or in the armpit.
• Sudden unusual bloody discharge from the nipple.
• Change in the size or shape of the breast.
• Puckering, dimpling or orange peel appearance of the breast skin.
• Chronic pain that does not go away.

The points to be kept in mind before the surgery:

1. Choose the best Cancer specialist for your primary surgery. Cancer surgery and reconstruction are best done by two different specialists (Onco surgeons as well as Plastic Surgeons).
2. Be sure that the treatment modalities should render you disease free.
3. Ask the Reconstructive Surgeon to use only US FDA approved breast implants (very few are USFDA approved).
4. The surgery should be undertaken in a good hospital set-up.

The care to be taken post breast implant includes:

1. Staying away from lifting heavy weights, swimming, driving etc for 6 weeks.
2. Regular follow-up with the surgeon for 6-12 months.
3. Sonomammogram or MRI scan of the breast every year to assess any recurrence.
4. Regular use of medications as advised.
5. Regular breast exercises to keep the breast soft.