According to a study that was presented on October 8 at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) Plastic Surgery 2006 conference in San Francisco, women with breast cancer often undergo a lumpectomy and radiation to save their breasts and avoid the need for additional reconstructive surgery. However, approximately one-third of all patients are unhappy with how their breasts look after undergoing breast conservation therapy, and many would consider reconstruction.
"I have patients walking into my office saying lumpectomy was supposed to save their breast but what’s left doesn’t look like a breast to them," says Howard Wang, MD, ASPS member surgeon and co-author of the study. "Conservation is believed to be an acceptable way of saving a woman’s breast. But many of these women are coming to plastic surgeons for help, saying it isn’t so."
In the study, 28% of the breast cancer patients said they were dissatisfied with the aesthetic result of their lumpectomy. Of those patients, 46% said that their physical appearance was worse after the surgery and were considering reconstruction. Only 9% of patients who were satisfied with the outcome, however, would consider reconstruction if it were offered.
Approximately 26% of patients were unhappy with their physical appearance after the lumpectomy, but had an improved sense of body image. Plastic surgeons believe that this disparity occurred because many patients felt relieved to be free of the cancer, leading them to feel better about their bodies even though they were not happy with how their breasts looked.
"Patients should know their options and understand that just because they undergo a lumpectomy to save their breast does not mean they will be happy with the cosmetic outcome," says Wang. "Oncologists need to work with patients to help them understand the potential physical outcomes and refer them to a board-certified plastic surgeon to consider all of their choices."

[www.plasticsurgery.org, October 9, 2006]