One aspect of breast cancer therapy, which may complicate the reconstructive process, is radiation therapy. Radiation is known to damage normal skin and any type of breast reconstruction. However, you still have options.
Autologous vs. Implant Reconstruction after Radiation Therpay
Radiation is particularly problematic with implant reconstruction. Autologous breast reconstruction can better withstand the adverse effects of radiation, but there still may be some consequences to radiation with autologous breast reconstruction. If it is known that a patient will require radiation therapy, the patient must be informed that there may be problems with breast reconstruction.
Waiting Until After Radiation for Breast Reconstruction
If possible it is best to wait until after the end of radiation to perform the reconstruction. After radiation the best reconstruction is autologous breast reconstruction, or using the patient’s own body tissue. This healthy tissue can improve the radiation damage to the chest. Implants, on the other hand, are prone to complications in a radiated chest.
You Have More Options: Expanders
If a patient knows she will be receiving radiation therapy, and has decided to have autologous reconstruction, another option is to have a temporary expander placed at the time of mastectomy. This allows the patient to go through therapy with a breast mound, and also maintains the skin envelope. At the end of all radiation therapy the patient’s own tissue can be transferred to replace the expander and the patient can still have an outstanding results without the risks of radiating the reconstruction.