Demystifying breast reconstruction is the goal of an information session Wednesday evening in Thunder Bay.
One in eight women Ontario women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. The disease can be life-threatening, and is almost always life-changing and body-altering through treatments that involve chemotherapy, radiation, and either a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
But for many women, reconstruction can be ” transforming,” said Dr. Sanjay Azad, a plastic surgeon in the northwestern Ontario city. “It’s a body issue, it’s a self-confidence issue, the day-to-day stuff of not having to deal with a mastectomy scar, or no breast. It’s kind of an issue of being complete.”
‘It takes time, but we’re here to support you”
The Canadian Cancer Society and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centres are hosting the Breast Reconstruction Awareness event to help women learn more about their options.
Some women choose external prosthetics because they don’t want any more surgery. But others have prosthetics because they’re not aware of the alternatives, or are concerned about implants, he said.
“Be aware that reconstruction is possible. And the difference it makes to you is monumental and there’s a process to it. It takes time but we are here to support you and make sure you get to the other side and it is going to make a difference to your quality of life,” said Azad.
There are new techniques which use a person’s own fat or muscle to rebuild the breast. For instance, the climbing muscle on the back – the latissimus dorsi – is cut on one side, but still remains attached to its blood supply and is then ‘”passed under the skin of the armpit and bring it to the front of the chest,” he explained.
Breast reconstruction covered by OHIP
Women with larger breasts, who have a lumpectomy, are also eligible to have reduction surgery at the same time, said Azad.
“The approach is that it makes the procedure very safe, because when you do a reduction you open up the breast and so the lumpectomy becomes very, very comprehensive and then you can reduce the breast.. and on the other side you can also do a reduction. Then, they’ve got a double benefit of safety of resection of the tumour and a reduction on both sides.”
As well, “implant reconstruction is very safe. It’s got to be done for the appropriate patient after assessment and there’s no problem with it.”
Most reconstructive procedures, with the exception of the fat transfer, can be performed at the hospital in Thunder Bay, which is the northwestern Ontario centre for these operations. As well, the surgery is covered by OHIP, said Azad.
The information event runs Wednesday Oct. 16, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel.