Giving Breast Cancer Patients Confidence and Dignity Through Plastic Surgery and Reconstruction
Breast cancer affects women and their femininity, often leaving them feeling that their womanhood has been diminished by the disease. A person’s entire life is shaken by such a diagnosis. Then things happen fast: treatment, surgery and if appropriate, reconstruction after the mastectomy or lumpectomy.
When treating breast cancer , priority is given to oncology treatments, but reconstruction also plays a major role in the journey. After all, this type of cancer is visible and survivors live with a constant reminder of their struggle when they look in the mirror or or when they accomplish simple routine tasks.
Luckily, many options are available to women who undergo a partial or total mastectomy. While breast implants are used in 80% of breast reconstructions, other options are also available.
“As plastic surgeons, we serve a double mission: we perform reconstructions and we make sure that our patients are left with an acceptable level of aesthetics,” explains Dr. Lucie Lessard, Chief of Plastic Surgery at the MUHC and at McGill University. ‟Women who come to my office are going through a difficult journey. Their bodies are afflicted with a horrible illness, affecting them not only as women, but also in the role they play as mothers, as wives. With reconstructive surgeries, we manage to have an almost instant impact on our patients’ quality of life.”
Yet, why do as little as 18 to 30% of women choose this option? “Probably because they are afraid or not well informed,” says Dr. Lessard. “During the difficult time surrounding their diagnosis, women are bombarded with information and need to make major decisions. It can easily become overwhelming.”
Every year for the past six years, Dr. Lessard has hosted a Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day (BRA Day), on the third Wednesday of October to inform MUHC patients of the different options available to them.
Some women struggle with the idea that reconstructive surgery can, in many cases, be done immediately during the initial surgery when cancerous cells are removed. However, this option allows women to avoid the shock of waking up with deformed breasts or no breasts at all.
“Of course, they will see the scars and experience some pain,” Dr. Lessard continues. “But if we can spare them the psychological pain of that shock, that’s a win.”
Breast reconstruction requires complex skills. In addition to the precision needed to minimize the visual impact of the operation, the surgeon must have three-dimensional skills to reconstruct a natural-looking breast.”
Members of the MUHC’s plastic surgery team at the Montreal General Hospital listen to their patients, answer their questions and guide them to the best option for their situation.
In addition to her role within the Division of Plastic Surgery of the MUHC, Dr. Lessard is also Chair of the Educational Committee of the International Confederation of Plastic Surgery Societies (ICOPLAST). In this capacity, she organizes international symposiums on safety related to the selection of implants, in many countries such as Egypt, South Korea and Belgium, and showcasing specialists from the biggest cancer centres, like Houston Texas MD Anderson.
If you are thinking about breast reconstruction surgery, we urge you to speak with your surgical oncologist who works in close collaboration with different plastic surgeons from the MUHC and McGill University. You can also contact the Division of Plastic Surgery at 514-934-1934, ext. 43044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.