Ask the Expert

Does breast reconstruction affect my risk of breast cancer returning?

Question: Does breast reconstruction affect my risk of breast cancer returning? Does reconstruction make it harder to detect potential tumors?

Answer: Despite numerous studies regarding breast reconstruction and future breast cancer risk, no data suggests that reconstruction is associated with the risk of breast cancer recurrence. You can feel confident that choosing reconstruction will not negatively impact your cancer risk.

Patients have a variety of reconstruction options from which to choose. Some reconstructions involve the use of saline or silicone implants while others may use tissue from other parts of the body to reconstruct the breasts, called a tissue flap reconstruction. Regardless of the type of reconstruction, your reconstructed breasts will not interfere with any future treatments you may require. Furthermore, in patients with permanent implants, managing any local recurrence of breast cancer usually does not require removal of the permanent implant.

Research also appears to suggest that reconstruction does not affect the detection of any potential future breast cancer through standard screening tools such as mammogram. However, you should always follow your doctor’s recommended screening schedule to ensure that any potential recurrences are identified in their earliest stages. If you have implants, make sure to get your mammogram at a screening facility with staff experienced in working with patients with implants. These technicians understand how to manipulate the breast to get the best possible images.

No matter which method of breast reconstruction that you choose, it is still very important that you continue regular self-examinations, screenings and any other treatments recommended by your doctor. Self-examinations are important for you to become familiar with the shape, texture and general feel of your reconstructed breast. If you have any concerns or identify any changes in your breasts, always bring them to your doctor’s attention so the necessary steps can be taken to further investigate any issues.

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