Women undergoing mastectomies face difficult decisions regarding how they want to look and feel as they recover from a breast cancer diagnosis. Plastic surgeons have been on a quest to better inform patients of their options before they undergo mastectomy. The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center concluded that patients do not fully understand the benefits and risks of breast reconstruction. “What research tells us,” says Manhattan Plastic Surgeon Dr. B. Aviva Preminger, MD, “is that breast reconstruction is a very personal decision. It can also make a tremendous difference in the emotional healing process.”
NY Times article on breast reconstruction
The women interviewed said they went into their surgeries believing that there would be a temporary loss of feeling, but that they’d eventually heal and go back to normal – just with “cancer-proof stuffing” in their breasts, as one patient put it. This was not the case for all but one of the women interviewed by the NY Times.
The best chance for sensory restoration is a procedure using the woman’s own body tissue rather than an implant.
Dr. Preminger’s letter to the editor published
“Your article about breast reconstruction doesn’t paint a full picture,” Dr. Preminger wrote in her letter to the editor. “We should not throw the baby out with the bath water. The inability to provide a sensate breast, while important, does not mean that we should not make every effort to restore a woman’s breast to the best of our current abilities.”
She went on to explain that the most recent outcome studies, using Dr. Andrea L. Pusic’s Breast Q, a validated measure for determining patient satisfaction, have demonstrated that women with successful breast reconstruction are significantly more satisfied with the appearance of their chest/breasts and fare better psychosocially and sexually than women with mastectomy alone. They functioned better physically, experienced less pain, and fewer limitations.
“Women facing mastectomy need to be provided with a truly balanced perspective,” she concluded.
Learn more about breast reconstruction surgery
“A responsible plastic surgeon informs patients of all the limitations and risks of reconstruction,” Dr. Preminger said. Naturally, the more informed a patient is, the better she is at developing realistic expectations – which is a precursor to patient satisfaction, the gold standard of a plastic surgeon’s success.
Dr. Preminger invites women to come in for a private consultation in her Manhattan plastic surgery office. She is happy to show women photos of what is possible aesthetically, discuss real statistics regarding risks and complications, and counsel patients on other factors that will help determine which course of action is right for them.