Breast reconstruction after radiation therapy

Last Modified: October 2, 2005

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.

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