It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, have you done your monthly exam? With a staggering 1 in 8 Canadian women diagnosed with this ruthless disease in their lifetimes, we can’t stress the importance of getting to know your girls.
Whether you’re a survivor, a caregiver, genetically predisposed or have lost someone to the fight, this month no doubt holds particular importance to you. With World Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day on the horizon, knowing your options and staying informed is critical for women.
FORM Face + Body is a leader in breast reconstruction surgery. The team’s comprehensive approach to patient care puts them at the forefront of plastic surgery in Toronto. We spoke with Dr. Ron Somogyi and Dr. Waqqas Jalil of FORM Face + Body about what women should know about breast reconstruction surgery.
BREAST RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY- KNOW YOUR OPTIONS
In the last ten to fifteen years, breast reconstruction surgery has taken on a total transformation. Years ago, women who faced the unfortunate news that they had breast cancer were faced with very limited options. From detection to diagnosis, you’re floating from appointment to appointment, trying to retain and remember each crucial detail.
Now, significantly, the team at FORM assembles with the surgical team, nurses, oncologists, and radiologists. This patient-first focus helps alleviate the stress and anxiety of misinformation and unifies the medical journey that they’re about to depart on.
Dr Ron Somogyi amplifies this process. “A patient receives a diagnosis the first thing that happens is that all the people involved in that patient care team, which could involve the breast surgeon, the radiation doctor, the medical oncologist that may give chemo, the pathologist, the nurses, everyone is involved and gets together to discuss a potential plan to help this patient.”
After the plan is accepted, the patient meets with their care unit and is assessed by breast reconstruction specialists. Dr Somogyi and his partner Dr Jalil insist this is the best path forward, with everyone on the same page, patient care first. Unfortunately, not every patient is aware of this streamlined approach. Too often, patients don’t have this protective bubble, they’re left to find answers and manage appointments on their own.
While hospital care and cancer patients receive care and reconstructive surgery in government-funded hospitals, those with resources may want to enlist the next-level care of this team of professionals.
FORM Face + Body ensure breast cancer patients know what is available to them.
“We used to do things in silos. The general surgeon used to do the mastectomy or lumpectomy and then we would come in. Everyone has a different focus. They’re focused on getting rid of the cancer. They’re not thinking about what you need to perform a beautiful reconstruction that a patient is going to be happy with. All that has changed in the past 10-15 years, the communication has been incredible between breast surgeons and plastic surgeons. Even radiation is completely different now, and they understand now how to treat patients with implants effectively with radiation without causing the damage we used to see when a patient has implants.”Dr Somogyi
MORE TECHNIQUES, BETTER PATIENT OUTCOMES FOR BREAST RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY
Quite possibly the biggest shift in breast reconstruction surgery comes down to what goes in. New techniques and methods offer patients choices beyond implants. Using your own tissue, or deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP Flap) procedure surgeons use skin and fatty tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast, leaving the abdominal muscle intact. The result is breasts that grow and age naturally with the patient.
“When you use your own tissue generally the recovery is anywhere from 6-8 weeks. Because we have multiple sites; the breasts and your abdomen to heal. That timeframe allows you to heal and go back to most activities. As for implants, it’s a bit less upfront, the recovery is easier with only one site. The recovery is shorter, but there is a bit maintenance involved. They’re man-made devices. There are things you have to check and you may require additional surgery.”Dr Jalil
The DIEP Flap method requires significant specialization and additional training that you may not get in a breast reconstruction centre. Dr Jalil is resolute, “It’s unfortunate that not everyone has that option. When we’re doing breast awareness month we really want to highlight all the available options so patients know what’s out there and what’s possible for them.”
Another misnomer is having to wait for surgery. Too often cancer survivors are left deformed after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. This physical trauma leaves lasting psychological damage. A constant reminder of the cancer which makes moving forward with living a full life difficult, if not impossible. While many women elect to remain breastless, with today’s modern medicine, patients do not have to wait months and years for their new breasts.
FACTS ON BREAST CANCER – KNOW YOUR BREASTS, LOVE YOUR BREASTS
- Breast cancer tops the list of diagnosed cancers in Ontario women. 1 in 8 women may face this diagnosis.
- Typically, breast cancer strikes women aged 50 to 74 (61% of cases). Regular screening detects cancer early.
- Healthy habits like limiting alcohol, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying fit lower risks.
- Breast cancer boasts high survival rates in Ontario. Mammograms reduce mortality risk, leading to a 47% drop in deaths.
- The Ontario Breast Screening Program detected over 39,000 breast cancers from 1990 to 2017. Early detection is key.
- Most women aged 50 to 74 should undergo mammography every two years reducing risks significantly.
- Being breast-aware is vital. All women should know their breast’s normal appearance and feel for any changes.
To learn more about breast cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society or speak to your healthcare practitioner.
Interview may be edited for length/clarity.