Easy access to breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy

Breast reconstruction surgery is considered as a follow-up treatment after breast cancer surgery, restoring the appearance to the person who has removed the breast. Vietnam now has the most popular breast reconstruction techniques in the world.

For people with breast cancer, surgical removal of cancerous tissue is the most important treatment in the strategy of combining treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and endocrine surgery. Breast surgery usually consists of two main types: breast conservation surgery and entire breast removal surgery. Despite the surgical approach, the patient has to partially remove the anatomical structure of the body and leave the defect in the sexually sensitive area of the woman.

Today, with state-of-the-art technology and good ancillary equipment, plastic surgeons can restore the breast shape, breast size, and nipple, with a beautiful and natural shape.

Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said that breast reconstruction surgery offers good psychological benefits, removes the complexities and defects after the major surgery for cancer, improves the quality of life for the patient, restores the appearance and femininity of the body, and removes the need for fake bras. After reconstruction, women are still able to marry and give birth as normal, but cannot breastfeed because the regenerated breast does not have milk.

“Not all women who have the resected breast can reproduce breast milk. Breast reconstruction surgery is a major surgery, a continuum of treatment, requiring high technology. Therefore, surgical procedures prioritize patients with large portions of their breasts removed due to a mastectomy, patients who are physically fit, and patients who are well informed about breast reconstruction”, Dr. Tuan shared.

According to Dr. Nguyen Van Phung, a lecturer at the Department of Plastic and Aesthetic Plastic Surgery at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, patients with breast cancer need to be examined for cancer by a specialist, then consulted by a plastic surgeon to determine the appropriate method of reconstruction.

Breast reconstruction surgery is a major surgery, requiring advanced technology and divided into several stages.

Breast reconstruction can be done during the following times:

– At the same time as breast resection surgery, called instant breast reconstruction. Instant breast reconstruction applies to cases of high risk of breast cancer, breast cancer at an early stage, and a relatively good state of health.

– After removal of the breast tumor, when the incision is healed and supportive therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy are completed. This is called delayed breast reconstruction. Delayed breast reconstruction applies to cases where breast cancer removal surgery has left the patient in good health, with no metastatic status.

– Disregarding some cases of early breast cancer, but still waiting for accurate histological results to decide whether to have radiation or not, this case can apply instant breast reconstruction – delayed after 2-3 weeks of breast cancer removal surgery.

Dr. Phung said that breast reconstruction surgery is divided into several stages and is completed within 3 to 6 months. The first stage is the reconstruction of the volume and shape of the breast. The later stage is balancing the breasts, reconstructing the areola and the nipple. The latter one usually takes place after the first one 3 months. The recovery time after each stages is from 1 to 2 weeks.

According to Dr. Phung, there are now three methods of breast reconstruction depending on the materials used:

– Of synthetic materials (padded bags).

– By the patient’s own tissue.

– Use both above types of materials.

The choice of regenerative method depends on the patient’s medical condition, the condition of the breast tissue, the remaining breast status, and the patient’s wishes. The method of breast reconstruction by the tissue of the patient’s skin will produce more natural results. The tissue can be taken from the skin that covers fat, the skin of the back, abdomen and buttocks. Conveniently, the method of using skin in the lower abdomen will help patients reproduce the breast as well as resolve abdominal fat, which helps patients have a more compact abdomen.

Viet Nam has already implemented the most popular breast reconstruction techniques from the world. Even high-tech techniques such as breast reconstruction with microdermabrasion techniques (usually skin – lower abdominal fat) have also been reported to many centers such as Hospital of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, National Burn, 108 Hospital, etc.

However, breast reconstruction surgery can have many complications such as infection, graft arrest, grafting abdominal wall, etc.

Dr. Phung said that when a surgery is conducted, there should be a good cooperation between doctors, patients and families to get a good result. All 3 groups need to have a thorough understanding of the patient’s medical condition, aspirations, possible breast reconstruction procedures, possible complications, the time required to complete breast reconstruction, and routine implementations.

In order to prepare well for the surgery, patients need to understand breast reconstruction, the results it may bring, the time needed and the complications. Additionally, patients need people around them who are encouraging and understanding of their situation.

“To ensure maximum safety, breast reconstruction surgery should be performed at medical facilities that have the equipment required for major surgery, an anesthesia team resuscitating capacity and surgery plastic surgeons who have been trained in breast reconstruction techniques.”, Dr. Phung stressed.

According to Le Phuong (