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Sharp Health News

Know your breast reconstruction options

Nov. 1, 2016

Know your breast reconstruction options

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among American women. Treatment for women diagnosed with breast cancer may involve removing part of or an entire breast. Although a majority of women opt for reconstruction, what’s right for one woman isn't necessarily right for another.

Dr. Michael Halls, a board-certified plastic surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says, "There are many options available and some patients may not be offered all options."

He believes that's why it's in the patient's best interest to see a plastic surgeon at the time of breast cancer diagnosis, to be aware of the possible treatments and to increase knowledge that leads to making informed decisions.

"The primary recommended treatment and reconstruction for breast cancer may be influenced by the size and shape of the breasts. A team decision including the patient and her general surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist is important prior to surgical procedures. The scar positioning and extent of scarring can be modified, and the number of surgeries can be limited," he says.

In some patients, skin-sparing mastectomies with reconstructions are options that can result in a more natural look and feel. These procedures must be coordinated with the general and plastic surgeons and are not available as delayed reconstruction. Within the past 15 years, there have been enhancements in anatomically shaped implants and better cohesive gel, as well as added natural tissues — ADMs or acellular dermal matrix — that can be used to help the patient feel more like herself.

Dr. Halls has also developed a special operative procedure for women with large breasts, which limits scars to the fold under the breast, manages excess skin and lateral tissue, and is started at the time of mastectomy, reducing the number of surgeries.

"I was very, very lucky to have Dr. Halls as my reconstruction surgeon," states Cathy Varner, a patient who had her surgery five years ago.

Cathy's general surgeon, Dr. Leah Farinas, recommended Dr. Halls for the reconstruction. Since she chose to have reconstruction, Dr. Halls was involved from the start and helped her decide on which surgeries would be best for her.

Cathy couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. "I have friends who did not have the benefit of Dr. Halls' procedure and I know, because they have told me, every time they undress or see themselves naked in the mirror, they are reminded they had cancer," she says. "I do not have that constant visible reminder; I have a very normal looking chest."

Breast reconstruction is a personal choice and one that could ultimately affect a patient's quality of life for many years. That's why it's important for women to know their options in order to make the best decision.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Halls about breast reconstruction options for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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