Radiation treatment following a mastectomy in the treatment of breast cancer is fairly common. Though refinements have been made in the radiation therapy that have significantly reduced both short and long term sequelae to the skin and underlying tissues, permanent consequences nevertheless exist which will affect the tissue expander breast reconstruction.
What does radiation do to the skin and soft tissues? The ionizing effects damage healthy cells causing scarring and thickening with increased rigidity of the tissues and less suppleness. The result is firmer feeling skin that is more rigid and more resistant to the stretching which is necessary with tissue expansion breast reconstruction. The small blood vessels in the field of treatment are also permanently damaged resulting in a reduction of blood supply to the tissues. Less oxygen and nutrients available to the tissues translates into an increased the risk of infection, greater susceptibility to trauma and prolonged healing times from surgery and injury. .
As a consequence of these changes, it is far more difficult to expand irradiated tissue in facilitating the breast reconstruction as compared to normal tissue. The increase in size obtained may be less than ideally desired and it can take much longer. Qualitatively, it often feels firm and appears darker than the surrounding skin. There is also an increased incidence of infections, formation of scar tissue around the expander, separation of recently closed incisions and even extrusion and exposure of the tissue expander through the skin.
Though tissue expander breast reconstruction can yield satisfactory results in tissue that has been previously irradiated, there are many attendant risks that need to be considered before selecting this option.
If you would like to obtain additional information on breast reconstruction or any other surgical procedure that I perform or to schedule a consultation, you can contact my office at 480-451-3000.
Steven H. Turkeltaub, M.D. P.C.
Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona
A Message Regarding Coronavirus/COVID-19
In light of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to let you know of some of the major precautions we are taking in our office to maximize cleanliness and keep the environment as sanitary and safe as possible. Our highest priority is always to ensure the safety of every individual who sees us and we are taking extreme infection-control measures to maintain cleanliness and “sterility” of surfaces and the overall environment.
We will be limiting dates and times for office appointments and consultations due to safety and other issues. Consequently, if you have already made an office appointment or consultation prior to March 18, 2020 to occur at a later time, this may need to be changed.
For anyone considering plastic surgery, we are now offering Virtual Consultations and Telemedicine through Skype. A great number of aesthetic or insurance-related issues can be evaluated via pictures and online video conferencing, making this an excellent way to find out more about particular procedures, determine candidacy for treatment, receive answers to questions and facilitate being able to move forward with care once the government lifts all restrictions.
In an abundance of caution, we are asking all current patients who are experiencing a fever, cough, chills, fatigue or any type of respiratory illness to please delay any upcoming appointments at our practice. We can talk with you by phone or email to establish a new date and time for the appointment.
We are all in this together. Our team urges everyone to follow the guidelines recommended by local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include frequent handwashing for a minimum of 20 seconds, social distancing, staying home if you are feeling sick, and contacting your healthcare provider if you feel you are experiencing symptoms.
For more information, please read our blog – Coronavirus and You: Important Information
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If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us by phone or email.