According to a new study published in the most recent issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers have discovered a new technique that may offer breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy an effective breast reconstruction alternative.
Typically, breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy are not ideal candidates for implant-based breast reconstruction. Radiation therapy significantly damages underlying tissues at a microscopic level. As a result, radiation therapy treatments can negatively affect the outcome of reconstruction and increase the risk of long-term complications following surgery. For years this has left radiation therapy recipients with very limited reconstruction options.
The study, led by researcher Dr. Salgarello Marzja and colleagues of University Hospital in Rome followed 16 breast cancer patients who underwent both breast surgery and radiation therapy over the course of three years. Of the 16 patients, 11 had mastectomies, while the remaining five underwent lumpectomies or other breast conserving surgical techniques.
The reconstruction technique utilized combined fat grafting and breast implants. The fat grafts were obtained via liposuction from another part of the patient’s body. The fat was then injected into the breast area to provide a ‘bed’ of healthy tissue for implant placement.
Treatment did not begin until three to six months following radiation therapy. Patients received two or three fat graft injections prior to undergoing implant reconstruction. The final surgical reconstruction was performed only after the affected area presented no further signs of radiation toxicity.
Following surgery, 94 percent of patients were very satisfied with the overall aesthetic appearance of their reconstructed breasts. Researchers also noted that there were no complications and all patients experienced good healing of the tissues surrounding the implant.
Radiation therapy is quickly becoming the standard of care for high-risk breast cancer patients and researchers anticipate a much greater need for reconstructive alternatives in the near future. Thus, larger follow-up studies are needed confirm the positive results of this study.
Learn more about breast reconstruction in Guilford, CT.