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What are the risks of breast cancer recurrence following reconstruction?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Having a mastectomy for breast cancer can be quite traumatic, and many women think long and hard about having their breasts reconstructed because they worry about the risk of cancer recurrence.

Fortunately, nearly every major U.S. public health authority agrees that breast reconstructions do not entail any increased risk of cancer recurrence.

That does not mean that once a woman has had a mastectomy and a reconstruction, her cancer is definitely gone for good. Instead, researchers have found that women who get breast reconstructions are no more likely to experience disease recurrence than those who only receive mastectomies.

Still, a woman may have lingering doubts about whether a breast reconstruction will cause her cancer to come back. These thoughts are normal and, many women are happy to know, baseless.

The American Cancer Society states that breast reconstructions do not encourage cancer to recur. Furthermore, if the disease does come back, reconstructed tissue does not get in the way of radiation treatment or chemotherapy, the organization adds.

In a study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers found that the average rate of recurrence among women with reconstructed breasts was 2.3 percent, which is in line with the overall rate among all breast cancer patients.

An article appearing in a 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine noted that neither type of breast reconstruction - that is, implant- or native-tissue-based - is associated with a higher risk of recurrence. Likewise, author Peter Cordeiro added that reconstructed pectoral tissue does not get in the way of the detection of any future tumors.

He theorized that this is one reason why (at the time) 56,000 U.S. women were receiving reconstructions each year. Today, that figure has risen to 93,000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Can breast reconstruction hide cancer, or cause it to come back? American Cancer Society. September 1, 2009. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/BreastCancer/MoreInformation/BreastReconstructionAfterMastectomy/breast-reconstruction-after-mastectomy-br-recon-and-ca Accessed November 9, 2011.

Cordeiro PG et al. Breast Reconstruction after Surgery for Breast Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. October 9, 2008. 359: 1590-1601. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/ Accessed November 9, 2011.

Preventive Mastectomy. National Cancer Institute. July 27, 2006. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/preventive-mastectomy Accessed November 9, 2011.

Langstein HN et al. Breast cancer recurrence after immediate reconstruction: patterns and significance. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. February 2003. 111(2):712-20; discussion 721-2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12560692 November 9, 2011.

2010 Reconstructive Demographics. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2011. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Documents/news-resources/statistics/2010-statisticss/Patient-Ages/2010-reconstructive-demographics-breast-surgery-statistics.pdf Accessed November 9, 2011.

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