New Surgery Eases the Toll Of Breast Cancer

Surgeons are increasingly offering an added benefit to their breast-cancer patients: removing the tumor and cosmetically repairing the breast at the same time.

Women with breast cancer traditionally would see a cancer surgeon to have the diseased tissue removed and later see a plastic surgeon for reconstruction.

Now, more cancer surgeons are getting trained in cosmetic techniques that preserve or restore a breast’s shape or appearance. This emerging field of “oncoplastic surgery” could allow a patient to minimize the number of times she must go under the knife.

The shift comes as traditional plastic surgeons turn increasingly to purely cosmetic procedures, which pay more. Indeed, the number of breast-reconstruction surgeries declined 29% to 57,100 last year from 2000, a development the American Society of Plastic Surgeons attributes in part to poor insurance reimbursement for these procedures.

Breast cancer strikes one out of eight American women at some time in their lives. Making plans for breast reconstruction at the same time as cancer surgery can speed a woman on the path of psychological, as well as physical, recovery. And by combining procedures to reduce the number of operations, it also reduces the risk of complications from successive surgeries.

The combination of cancer surgery with cosmetic techniques is aimed mainly at women with early-stage cancer getting a lumpectomy, a procedure that removes cancerous tissue but leaves the rest of the breast.

Oncoplastic surgery also can sometimes benefit patients who need a mastectomy, or total breast removal, by helping to prepare their bodies for subsequent reconstruction.

More information at WSJ