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    Fat Injections: Safe for Breast Reconstruction After Cancer?

    Study Suggests Technique Known as 'Lipofilling' Has Low Complication Rate

    How Lipofilling Works continued...

    Nearly 79% had invasive cancers. The other 21% had earlier stage cancer. The average age was 52.

    The women were cared for at three different institutes in Italy and France.

    The lipofilling was done, on average, more than three years after the surgery. The average follow-up was more than 19 months.

    Overall, Petit found a complication rate lower than 3%. Most common was cell death of some of the injected fat.

    During the follow-up, breast cancers were found in 5.6% of patients. When the doctors looked only at the breast that originally had the cancer, breast cancers were found in 2.4%. Recurrence was more common in those who had breast-conserving surgery. The researchers did not find that the injected fat interfered with the ability of the mammograms to detect cancer recurrence.

    In the earlier study, Petit tracked 321 women with breast cancer who had surgery between 1997 and 2008. Later, they had lipofilling. He compared those women with two comparison patients each.

    After a median follow-up of more than four and a half years, he found that eight in the lipofilling group had a local cancer found and 19 did in the comparison group. That makes the rates comparable, he says.

    When he looked just at noninvasive cancer that starts in the breast, he found three cases in the fat-injection group and none in the comparison patients. However, he says, this could be due to some study biases in picking the comparison group.

    More Research Needed

    The results of the new research "doesn’t show there is a problem yet, but we still need to keep looking [in breast cancer patients]," says Sydney Coleman, MD, a Manhattan plastic surgeon and assistant clinical professor of surgery at New York University Medical Center. He is a pioneer in the technique.

    The procedure itself, he says, has very few complications. Women who get the injections for augmentation can typically get a one-cup increase in size, he says.

    "We need more studies to really determine the oncological risk," he tells WebMD. "We have so little data on cancer recurrence."

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