What to Do to Maximize Breast Reconstruction Success?

In 2000, I had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiatioon for cancer in my left breast. In 2002, I underwent another lumpectomy to remove suspicious tissue, which was determined to be fat necrosis. After that surgery, I have experienced even more problems with some breast deformity, hard painful tissue, and most importantly, interference with diagnostic tests. Although getting clear answers was very difficult at times, all of these problems were attributed to fat necrosis.

In February 2009, I had this hard area in my breast removed and had DIEP reconstruction. Although I have been concerned about the cosmetic result, the graft was successful for the most part and my doctor assures me that some revision will create the desired appearance. However, I have been developing a new, painful, hard lump near the armpit. My surgeon has scheduled surgery to remove this as well as to complete the breast reconstruction/cosmetic revisions. I am concerned that the prior radiation has created a problem with healing that will continue; that the new incision will also develop problems.

Is there anything I can do to maximize the success of the sugery?

Doctor Answers 4

Breast reconstruction and Radiation

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Unfortunately, the effects of radiation on the tissues and your ability to heal can persist for many years.  It sounds like you and your surgeon are doing everything you can to get you where you want to be.  As long as you avoid any sort of smoking, that is about the only thing you can do to help the tissues along.  I hope this helps.

Few options to reverse radiation injury.

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IT sounds as if you are doing the most you can and are recieving excellent care.

Unfortunately radiation therapy is a reality of breast cancer treatment.

Although, I am sure you already know this, avoiding anything that could compromise healing such as smoking or secondary smoke is essential for optimal healing.

Eat a balanced diet. Excercise regularly. Control blood pressure and hypercholserterolemia.

Other than that it sounds as if you are on top of everything.

I wish you the best of luck in your treatments.

Breast recosntruction and radiation

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Unfortunately, radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. It may be radiation necrosis of some subcutaneous fat, but during the revision they can biopsy the tissue.

Radiation can cause healing problems after breast reconstruction

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Your suspicion that radiation may be part of the problem is probably correct. Do you smoke? Cigarette smoking can also contribute to poor healing after surgery. Aside from avoiding cigarette smoking and smoke, there is little that is proven to help radiation damaged tissues heal. Flax seed oil may be helpful, but that is not proven. Don't add anything to your diet without letting your surgeon know first.

Good luck to you.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

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.