For women with breast cancer who wish to conserve as much of the breast as possible, a lumpectomy allows the option of maintaining breast tissue without sacrificing a focus on aggressive cancer removal. Recent developments in lumpectomy techniques may offer even more benefits for women with breast cancer as oncoplastic surgery and lumpectomies become more a more popular treatment option for breast cancer survivors. Here are four ways that new lumpectomy techniques have improved the procedure.
1. Improved Cancer Detection during Lumpectomy
An innovative radiofrequency spectroscopy technology can now detect cancer cells during a lumpectomy that are not typically visible during or after surgery. Detecting cancer cells in the outer margins of removed tissue can aid surgeons in discovering additional cancer during the procedure itself, multiplying the chances of complete cancer removal in a lumpectomy.
2. Revised and Standardized Guidelines for What Constitutes a “Total Removal” of a Tumor
Standardized guidelines for what constitutes total removal of a tumor now require surgeons to excise the tumor from the breast along with a margin of normal breast tissue to ensure complete cancer removal.
3. Oncoplastic Surgery
In my practice, I specialize in oncoplastic surgery. Oncoplastic surgery combines aggressive tumor removal with the cosmetic concerns of conserving as much of the natural breast as possible. In oncoplastic surgery, I reconstruct the breast immediately after cancer removal.
4. Extreme Oncoplasty
Extreme oncoplasty is an option for some women with breast cancer who normally would be considered better candidates for a mastectomy. In these cases, extreme oncoplasty may allow women better cosmetic options who might otherwise require full removal of the breast.
Women who are diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in the breasts generally have two options for treatment: a mastectomy, or full removal of the breast(s), or a lumpectomy, a focused removal of the tumor that leaves as much of the breast as possible intact. In my practice, I adopt a conservative approach to breast tissue removal, optimizing the end cosmetic result while maintaining aggressive removal of all cancerous tissue.
The BioZorb™ Surgical Marker
The BioZorb™ surgical marker is an innovative new tissue marker that is surgically implanted into the breast at the location of the tumor. The device itself dissolves into the patient’s body, but leaves behind six eyelash-sized titanium markers that serve as indicators for the exact tumor location.
Why Biological Markers Matter
Normally, after a lumpectomy, the patient must undergo a series of radiation treatments to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. Biological markers are important in the progression of cancer treatment technology because they can allow radiation treatments following a lumpectomy to concentrate more precisely on the tumor itself, with less damage to the surrounding cells and organs.
Potential for Better Cosmetic Results
Focusing radiation exclusively on the tumor as much as possible with the help of biological markers can mean that more natural breast tissue may be saved. When as much healthy breast tissue as possible is conserved, I find that creating optimal breast reconstruction results after a lumpectomy is much more achievable from a surgical standpoint. With a healthy, natural breast appearance, breast cancer patients can move forward from their illness with a sense of wholeness.
Women who elect to undergo a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy to remove cancerous tumors in the breast are often concerned about what their resulting breast shape will be.
Many of my patients are relieved to find that, with modern developments, lumpectomies do not necessarily result in having permanently dented or misshaped breasts. In fact, there are a variety of methods for improving breast shape after a lumpectomy. Here is a closer look at three of the most common techniques:
1. Small Implant
Inserting a small implant into the affected breast(s) can be an effective method of improving breast symmetry after a lumpectomy. Women should wait about a year after completing radiation therapy before considering implants. However, not all lumpectomy patients are good candidates for implants, as the radiation can sometimes result in a higher risk of complication.
2. Bra Inserts
A variety of post-lumpectomy products are available for women who would like to improve the appearance of their breast shape under clothing. Bra inserts, often in the form of silicone forms, are available to purchase online and through specialty stores, and can be excellent options for women who do not wish to undergo another surgery for improving their breast shape.
3. Oncoplastic Surgery
In my practice, I specialize in oncoplastic surgery, a technique that involves complete surgical removal of the tumor performed in combination with reconstructive plastic surgery. Since the cancer is removed at the same time as the breast reconstruction, patients only need to undergo one surgical procedure and a single recovery period. Oncoplastic surgery can be ideal for women who would like to preserve their natural breast shape as much as possible while also taking care of their health.
Most of us associate breast reconstruction with a mastectomy, or full removal of the affected breast as part of cancer treatment. However, advances in cancer treatment allow for oncologists to perform lumpectomies in more cases. If you’ve only undergone a lumpectomy, is reconstruction surgery really necessary?
A New Emphasis in Breast Cancer Treatment
The old philosophy regarding breast cancer was that the safest approach was for surgeons to excise a significant amount of existing breast tissue to ensure that all cancerous cells were removed. Doctors hoped that this aggressive strategy would help prevent the potential for recurrence, especially when combined with additional treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
These days, many oncologists and reconstructive surgeons are focused on preserving natural breast tissue after a breast cancer diagnosis instead. This is due in part to improvements in technology that allow for earlier detection and treatment of breast cancer in general, but also reflects the more modern approach most oncologists take in using nonsurgical treatments, like radiation or chemo, to shrink malignant growths enough that a lumpectomy can be performed rather than a mastectomy.
Reconstruction after Lumpectomy
Women who have a lumpectomy can still benefit from reconstructive surgery. Even though it’s less invasive than a mastectomy, a lumpectomy still requires tissue removal and can leave behind noticeable contour irregularities. Reconstruction may be as simple as reshaping your breast tissue to correct contours, or may include fat transfer augmentation or even a small implant to restore lost volume. My specialty is in performing oncoplastic reconstruction, in which I team up with the cancer surgeon to perform immediate reconstruction, with the goal of saving as much natural breast tissue as possible.