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Breast Reconstruction OK Before Radiation

Breast Reconstruction at Same Time as Mastectomy Safe, Say Researchers

Waiting May Still Be Better

But some experts still aren't convinced that immediate breast reconstruction is a good idea.

Thomas Buchholz, MD, a radiation oncologist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who was the discussant for the presentation, said that while the study is an important one, he still thinks women are better off delaying breast reconstruction until after radiation therapy is completed.

"The issues are twofold," he tells WebMD. "Does reconstruction negatively affect the delivery of radiation, and which option gives the best cosmetic outcome?

"At M.D. Anderson, we find it advantageous to delay breast reconstruction as it allows us to deliver the radiation therapy as safely as possible," he says. The presence of a new breast or implant makes it harder to hit the target, so radiation might inadvertently damage healthy lung tissue.

Also, studies at M.D. Anderson have suggested that delayed breast reconstruction is associated with better cosmetic results, Buchholz says. "Radiation can cause the implant or rebuilt tissue to scar down. It looks like a rock, becomes contracted and distorted."

Noting that this scarring often doesn't occur until many years after treatment, he says, "Maybe the Fox Chase study had a lower rate of complications because they didn't follow the women long enough."

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