Dr. David Light was the guest speaker at the Huntington Hospital Breast Conference this week. Huntington Hospital, a member of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System), conducts ongoing conferences for its medical staff to keep them educated on the most current research and trends in breast health.
Dr. Light presented to a room full of oncologists, radiation oncologists, breast surgeons, and physiatrists. He and the other plastic surgeons at Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PC care for many of these medical professionals' breast cancer and reconstruction patients. The topic of the presentation was "Breast Reconstruction in the Setting of Radiation." Radiation therapy, which helps prevent local recurrence of cancer by destroying cancer cells, unfortunately also presents many negative side effects for healthy skin cells and their blood supply.
The presentation focused on breast reconstruction strategies for patients who have had or will require radiation. Although it is not always possible to tell if a patient will require radiation post-mastectomy, the timing and approach to reconstruction can be coordinated to provide optimal aesthetic results.
After reviewing the latest literature on radiation and breast reconstruction, the group discussed case studies and reviewed common indicators that dictate the timing of reconstruction – immediate, delayed or staged (delayed immediate) – and the use of tissue expanders and implants. Dr. Light stressed to the group that there are many different combinations of treatment options that can be considered to give patients the best possible outcomes.
One example of treatment options, the delayed immediate DIEP flap, was used to illustrate the depth of breast reconstruction options and necessary coordination among the breast team. After the breast tissue is removed during mastectomy, a tissue expander is placed in the breast for up to a year while cancer treatments continue. Then, when chemo and radiation are complete, the expander is removed and DIEP flap reconstruction can be performed.
Each case is unique, and not all patients are candidates for tissue flap reconstruction, so physician and patient education is key. Consult with your physician if you think you might be a candidate.