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Breast Shrinkage 10 Years After Radiation for Breast Cancer?

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?

Doctor Answers (3)

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.

Web reference:

Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

It is very common to see sever changes post radiation treatment

The common outcome of the radiation treatment of the breast tissue is shrinkage and breast changes. The treatment options are limited to flap reconstruction. The use of implants is not recommended because of complications and unsatisfactory results.
New Orleans Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Options to treat long term effects of radiation for breast cancer

Radiation treatment for breast cancer causes permanent changes to the breast which limits the surgical options. Shrinkage after ten years is uncommon though. Sometimes the natural changes to the unaffected breast make them look more asymmetrical. Regardless, options are to reduce/lift the unaffected breast or do a muscle flap procedure to the radiated side. Implants in a radiated breast are more prone to problems such as capsular contracture.
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.

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