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Breast Reconstruction Safe in the Long Term

Breast Implants After Breast Cancer Surgery Don't Hurt Survival Chances
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WebMD Health News

Dec. 22, 2004 -- Having breast reconstruction after a mastectomy isn't likely to hurt a woman's chances of surviving breast cancer, a new study suggests.

In fact, the research shows that women with early breast cancer who get breast implants after mastectomy may actually have better survival odds than those who don't.

Researchers say previous studies have already shown that breast implants do not have any negative effects in breast cancer survivors over the short term, but this study is the first to show that breast reconstruction is also safe over the long term.

The results of the study appear in the Dec. 23 issue of Breast Cancer Research.

Breast Reconstruction Safe

Researchers looked at the effects of breast reconstruction with breast implants on long-term survival in more than 4,000 women under age 65 diagnosed with early breast cancer between 1983 and 1989. All of the women had been treated with mastectomy (complete removal of breast tissue) and followed for about 12 years after their breast cancer diagnosis.

Twenty-one percent of the women had a breast implant after their mastectomy for breast cancer.

The study showed that of these women, 12.4% died due to breast cancer during the follow-up period compared with 19.7% of women without an implant.

Researchers say women who underwent breast reconstruction were more likely to be younger and white than women who didn't have breast implants. After adjusting for these factors related to breast cancer survival, researchers found the risk of death in breast cancer patients with breast implants is about half of that without implants.

"Certainly, further research is needed to explain this survival differential in women with breast implants and those without, by examining potentially explanatory factors such as socioeconomic status, [co-existing illnesses], smoking, or other lifestyle factors," write researcher Gem Lee and colleagues of the Northern California Cancer Center in Fremont, Calif., and colleagues.

Researchers say having breast reconstruction may improve the women's self-image and morale, which may help improve their odds of surviving breast cancer. Having breast implants may also make women more likely to receive follow-up medical care that might also have a beneficial effect.

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