Breast reconstruction during mastectomy boosts well-being most, study finds

No major difference seen among different techniques; delayed reconstruction also helps

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Women who have a breast reconstructed after a mastectomy gain large improvements in their emotional, social and functional well-being, regardless of the technique or timing they choose for their reconstruction, a new study led by the University of Michigan finds.

But the biggest psychological boost, the study shows, comes to those who opt for reconstruction during the same operation as their mastectomy, rather than those who have reconstructive surgery later. Choosing implants or the patient's own tissue makes only small differences.

The result, from the multi-center, prospective Michigan Breast Reconstruction Outcome Survey, adds carefully gathered scientific evidence to the mounting argument for reconstruction operations for breast cancer patients. Published in the October issue of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, it also contradicts past findings that one approach or another is superior.

"We seem to have found a way to cushion the emotional blow of losing a breast, now that technology and surgical technique have advanced to the point where we can create a new breast that is natural looking," says author and study leader Edwin Wilkins, M.D., M.S., associate professor in the U-M Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. "The largest effect seemed to occur in those who came out of mastectomy surgery with a new breast already in place, but even patients who waited experienced a substantial positive upswing."

The study surveyed 250 mastectomy patients at 12 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada. The surveys were done twice: days before and a year after their reconstructive surgery by one of 23 surgeons. Most of the women - 184 - had breasts made from their own tissue, using one of two variations of an operation called TRAM reconstruction. The rest had artificial tissue expanders or implants filled with

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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