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Breast Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Breast Cancer


Breast Reconstruction

For patients who opt for a total mastectomy, reconstructive surgery may be used at the time of the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at some subsequent time (delayed reconstruction).[40,41,42,43] Breast contour can be restored by the submuscular insertion of an artificial implant (saline-filled) or a rectus muscle or other flap. If a saline implant is used, a tissue expander can be inserted beneath the pectoral muscle. Saline is injected into the expander to stretch the tissues for a period of weeks or months until the desired volume is obtained. The tissue expander is replaced by a permanent implant. (Visit the FDA's Web site for more information on breast implants.) Rectus muscle flaps require a considerably more complicated and prolonged operative procedure, and blood transfusions may be required.

Following breast reconstruction, radiation therapy can be delivered to the chest wall and regional nodes either in the adjuvant setting or if local disease recurs. Radiation therapy following reconstruction with a breast prosthesis may affect cosmesis, and the incidence of capsular fibrosis, pain, or the need for implant removal may be increased.[44]


Evidence from randomized trials indicates that periodic follow-up with bone scans, liver sonography, chest x-rays, and blood tests of liver function does not improve survival or quality of life when compared to routine physical examinations.[45,46,47] Even when these tests permit earlier detection of recurrent disease, patient survival is unaffected.[46] Based on these data, some investigators recommend that acceptable follow-up be limited to physical examination and annual mammography for asymptomatic patients who complete treatment for stage I to stage III breast cancer. The frequency of follow-up and the appropriateness of screening tests after the completion of primary treatment for stage I to stage III breast cancer remain controversial.

Related Summaries

Other PDQ summaries containing information related to breast cancer include the following:

  • Breast Cancer Prevention
  • Breast Cancer Screening
  • Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy
  • Genetics of Breast and Ovarian Cancer
  • Male Breast Cancer Treatment
  • Unusual Cancers of Childhood Treatment (breast cancer in children)


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This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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