Breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy improves patients' quality of life

Update: October, 07/2020 - 19:30


HCM City's Bình Dân Hospital doctors perform breast reconstruction surgery on a patient who had a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis. — Photo Courtesy of the hospital

Gia Lộc

HCM CITY — A 48-year-old woman from HCM City lacked confidence around her friends after having half of her breast removed because of a cancerous tumour. After learning that surgery could rebuild the shape and look of her breast, she visited Bình Dân Hospital for breast reconstruction surgery.

The hospital’s doctors took skin and fat from the patient’s abdomen to reshape the breast and treated inflammation in her left arm caused by the treatment for breast cancer.

Six months after the surgery, the woman had regained her confidence.

Dr Nguyễn Văn Phùng, a lecturer at the Department of Plastic-Aesthetics at the HCM City University of Medicine and Pharmacy, who works in Bình Dân Hospital's Plastic-Aesthetic Surgery Unit, said: “Breast reconstruction is for women who have had a mastectomy to treat cancer or have lost breast structure due to burns or trauma.”

“The reconstruction helps patients get rid of their feelings of inferiority and gives them a better quality of life,” Phùng said.

Breast reconstruction does not affect cancer recurrence and does not prolong the time for breast cancer treatment.

“This is major surgery with many stages, so it is necessary for the patient to cooperate well with doctors during the process,” he added.

Breast reconstruction can be performed immediately after mastectomy or some time later, depending on the case. If the patient needs chemotherapy, the breast can be reconstructed six months later.

Breast reconstruction methods can be divided into three groups, including use of artificial materials like saline padded bags or gel silicone. There are also many different techniques to reconstruct the breast with a part of the patient's body. The other method combines the patients' body materials with synthetic materials.

“Depending on the condition of the breast, the skin, and the skin around the breast, the doctor will choose a reconstruction method that is appropriate for each patient to bring the best results and ensure safety and high aesthetic value,” Phùng said.

Breast reconstruction must be performed in hospitals with specialists licensed in plastic surgery. 

The doctor will examine and evaluate the condition of the chest and breast, old surgical scars, and the quality of remaining skin and soft tissue. Patients will take pre-operative tests and will have a pre-anaesthesia examination by an anaesthetist before surgery.

Depending on the case, the patient will have tests such as mammography, breast ultrasound, or a CT scan, and breast cancer follow-up tests.

Patients should stop using aspirin, tobacco, and other anticoagulants about 10 days before surgery.

Breast cancer

According to the 2018 GLOBOCAN database published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. It is the leading cause of death from cancer in women globally, including Việt Nam.

In 2018, Việt Nam had nearly 165,000 new cancer incidences, including more than 15,000 breast cancer patients.

More than 6,000 people died due to breast cancer in 2018.

If breast cancer is detected in the first stage, the survival rate over 5 years is 100 per cent, a relatively high rate compared with other cancers such as cervical cancer with 93 per cent and 88 per cent for rectal cancer.

If the cancer is detected late and the disease has spread, the treatment will not be highly effective. Women need to know how to examine their breasts at home, and should be periodically screened for breast cancer.

Risk groups include women whose relatives have had breast or ovarian cancers, or those with a mother, sister or daughter with the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, and others with atypical hyperplasia, local lobular carcinoma, or chest wall radiation cancer treatment before age 30. 

Men also suffer from breast cancer. Among every 100 diagnosed breast cancer patients, one is male.

According to the Vietnam National Cancer Hospital in Hà Nội, nearly 5-7 per cent of breast cancer cases have a genetic cause, while more than 90 per cent of cases are affected by environmental and lifestyle factors.

Breast cancer is one of the cancers with the most treatment methods. Doctors can combine many methods to treat a patient depending on the stage of the disease, the biology of the tumour, the health status, and the wishes of the patient. Cancer treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, among others. — VNS