Breast reconstruction after radiation therapy

Last Modified: October 2, 2005

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy for my advanced breast cancer. I completed radiation 3 months ago and have healed fine. I would like to have reconstruction. My oncologist recommended waiting for 6 months total after radiation but did say that it's probably OK to go ahead now. I'd like to proceed now but don't want to cause any unnecessary risks.

Answer

Don LaRossa, MD, Professor of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, responds:

The reason we wait six months before proceeding is that there has been an insult to the breast skin and tissue from the radiation. We want that damage to be resolved. For most people, 6 months is sufficient and safe. Despite the fact that the skin may appear "healed", there has been damage at a cellular level, damage to the tissue that we cannot see. Before this damage is completely healed, the tissues are often stiff and healing after the reconstruction may be impaired.


News
Radiation Benefits Mixed After Breast-Preserving Surgery

Jan 27, 2012 - Treatment with radiation therapy after excision of ductal carcinoma in situ in women age 60 is associated with a slight improvement in survival, but may increase the likelihood of eventual mastectomy, according to a study published in the Feb. 1 issue of Cancer.


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