New Breast Surgery Techniques Can Leave Women Looking Better than Before
The moment a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she often jumps to the conclusion that she’ll need to have her entire breast removed.
Yet many women don’t realize that breast conserving surgery with external beam radiation is an option that offers outcomes and survival rates that are just as high for women with certain types of early stage breast cancer, said Dr. Julie Reiland, breast surgeon with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care. Plus, new surgical techniques which enhance the shape of the breast can leave a woman looking better than before.
“Here in the Midwest, we have a stoic, frontier woman attitude that we should be able to tough it out, and we’re not supposed to care about how we look,” Dr. Reiland said. What’s more, women mistakenly think their chances are better if they have their entire breast removed, when actually survival rates are the same for both types of procedures.
“Breast cancer is life-threatening when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. It has little to do with the cancer in the breast. It has more to do with how aggressive the cancer cells are. That’s what chemotherapy is for – to kill cancer cells that have spread elsewhere,” Dr. Reiland said.
One issue with traditional lumpectomy is that the incision is often placed right over the lump – wherever it is on the breast. After the lump is removed, a scar and indentation where the lump was may be visible, and the breast looks deformed.
Dr. Reiland said she discovered about nine years ago that she could use plastic surgery techniques, and place the incision where the scar won’t be visible. Plus, she tightens the skin to make the breast more “perky,” the same way a plastic surgeon would do a breast lift. This surgical approach is known as “oncoplasty.”
Because law provides that women who undergo full or partial mastectomy are entitled to surgery that equalizes the look of their breasts, Dr. Reiland says the other breast can also be reshaped to match the same look, often during the same surgical procedure.
A novel therapy now being studied at the Avera Cancer Institute uses IOeRT to deliver a boost dose of radiation during surgery, cutting the radiation treatment time from six weeks to three weeks. This therapy may allow more women, especially in rural areas, to opt for breast conserving surgery, because it cuts the treatment time in half. “We’re also looking into a possible future study that would test one dose of radiation at the time of surgery – and then we’re done,” Dr. Reiland said.
“Our first goal is to always get rid of the cancer. But then we can consider how we can help that woman look better, restore her self-esteem, and help her feel like she is back the way she was – or even better than before,” Dr. Reiland said. “It’s great to see women who have experienced breast cancer to once again feel confident and sexy.”
“There are excellent advancements in breast cancer treatment coming out all the time,” Dr. Reiland said. She hopes that in the future, breast cancer will no longer be viewed as a fearful, devastating diagnosis, but rather a medical problem that is very treatable with lessened effects on one’s personal appearance and lifestyle. “We’re getting closer to that, and it’s very powerful. Women are not so much a victim anymore.” To learn more, go to www.AveraBreastCenter.org