Hi there. My mom is a 10 year breast cancer survivor treated with lumpectomy and radiation. She has recently noticed the treated breast has shrunk in size. She had a normal CBE and diagnostic mammogram. Is this normal for the breast to shrink in size after so many years? What can be done?
Breast Shrinkage 10 Years After Radiation for Breast Cancer?
Doctor Answers (4)
Breast shrinkage 10 years after radiation for breast cancer.
Fat grafting has become a popular procedure to improve aesthetic outcome following breast reconstruction or for improvement of contour after lumpectomy. Much of the newest research has investigated the properties of fat, in terms of its stem cell properties and associated advantages. It has significantly ameliorated radiation damage by increasing vascularity. Also, it adds additional "fatty tissue" atop the reconstructed breast mound to further contour any concavities or deformities, while also masking implant visibility with rippling and such.
At our Breast Reconstruction Center, we have utilizing this technique almost routinely to maximize the aesthetic outcomes after lumpectomy or mastectomy. We have utilized the micro-fat grafting technique, and have been obtaining maximal fat graft survival into the breast. After harvesting of the fat from areas with excess fat, usually the belly, hips, or thighs, the fat is processed and injected back into the breast using the aforementioned techniques. Our patients have been very happy with the results as well as the areas where the liposuction was performed. Contour has been much improved using the micro-fat grafting technique, and the downtime is minimal. Fat grafting has become a mainstay in breast reconstruction and has added another edge to breast reconstruction for aesthetics with minimal morbidity and complications.
Radiation effects are permanent and may cause long-lasting change.
The effects from breast radiation are permanent changes that can lead to progressive atrophy, fibrosis, and vascular compromise even years later. Contracture changes are common. It is often advised to perform operations on the contralateral breast to achieve a symmetrical appearance rather than to operate on the radiated breast. This is due to the significantly higher rates of complications that occur in radiated breasts. If one has to operate on the radiated breast, procedures which bring in healthy, non-radiated tissue (ie a Latissimus muscle flap) produce the best results. Fat transfer has shown some promise in improving contour deformities of radiated breasts as well. A consultation with a Plastic Surgeon with experience in breast reconstruction will allow you to understand what your mom's options may be.