If you or a loved one is facing breast cancer, in most cases, breast cancer surgery, such as a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or a preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy, is part of breast cancer treatment or breast cancer risk reduction.

It’s easy for patients to become consumed by the devastating news of diagnosis and lengthy treatment process and overlook the importance of breast reconstruction surgery following breast cancer surgery. However, this type of surgery can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life, self-esteem, and overall well-being. That’s why it’s crucial to have both a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon on your care team from the very beginning to provide full spectrum care.

Yes, there is a difference between the two surgeons, and successful breast cancer removal and reconstruction require expertise in both surgical specialties.

This blog will discuss the significance of combining breast surgeons and plastic surgeons to provide full spectrum care. We will review the roles of both specialties and the benefits of collaborating with a team of experts to achieve the best results. We will also explore what breast reconstruction is, how it is performed, and how soon breast surgeries need to be scheduled following a breast cancer diagnosis.

The Difference Between Breast Surgeons and Plastic Surgeons

Breast surgeons and plastic surgeons are two types of specialists who may be involved in the care of patients who have had breast cancer. While some people use these terms interchangeably or think they are the same, they are typically different in their areas of expertise and training.

Breast surgeons or surgical oncologists are specialists who are trained in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of breast cancer. They are experts in breast anatomy, cancer biology, and the surgical procedures used to treat breast cancer and are an essential part of the team that provides care to patients with breast cancer.

On the other hand, plastic surgeons are specialists who are trained in reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. While some plastic surgeons perform breast reconstruction surgery, they typically do not diagnose or treat breast cancer.

The Role of Breast Surgeons in Full Spectrum Care

When a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, a breast surgeon is usually the first specialist they will see. Breast surgeons are trained to diagnose breast cancer and develop an appropriate treatment plan based on the patient’s individual circumstances.

Breast surgeons can perform a variety of surgical procedures, including lumpectomy and mastectomy. Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure that removes only the cancerous tissue from the breast, while mastectomy involves removing the entire breast.

In addition to performing surgical procedures to remove cancer, breast surgeons work closely with other healthcare providers, such as plastic surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Together, they develop a comprehensive treatment and breast reconstruction plan for each patient that may include breast surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or hormone therapy.

The Role of Plastic Surgeons in Full Spectrum Care

When it comes to breast reconstruction after mastectomy, the role of a plastic surgeon cannot be overstated. While breast surgeons diagnose and typically perform the initial surgery to remove cancer, plastic surgeons have expertise in breast reconstruction and cosmetic procedures to restore the appearance of the breast that can help patients regain their confidence and feel their best after a challenging experience with cancer.

In addition to breast reconstruction, plastic surgeons can also perform cosmetic procedures such as liposuction and other body contouring procedures to further help patients achieve their desired appearance. These procedures are typically elective and not medically necessary but can further boost a patient’s self-esteem and confidence.

How Breast Surgeons and Plastic Surgeons Work Together for Full Spectrum Care

When a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer, a breast surgeon typically performs a surgical procedure to remove the cancer. Depending on the stage and extent of the cancer, this may involve a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. After the cancer is removed, the patient may be referred to a plastic surgeon for breast reconstruction. Reconstruction surgery can be done immediately during the same surgery as the lumpectomy or mastectomy, or it can be delayed.

The plastic surgeon will work closely with the breast surgeon to ensure the reconstruction does not interfere with cancer treatment or surveillance. The plastic surgeon will also work with the patient to develop a personalized plan for breast reconstruction based on their unique needs and preferences. This may involve using implants or tissue flaps to rebuild the breast.

Breast surgeons and plastic surgeons may also work together in cases where a patient has not been diagnosed with breast cancer but is at high risk of developing breast cancer. Sometimes, a patient may choose to have a preventive mastectomy to reduce their risk of breast cancer. The breast surgeon will perform the mastectomy, and the plastic surgeon will perform the breast reconstruction.

The collaboration between breast surgeons and plastic surgeons is essential in providing full spectrum care for patients who have had breast cancer. By working together, these specialists can provide comprehensive, personalized care that addresses patients’ medical and aesthetic needs to help them receive the best possible outcome, both in terms of cancer treatment and breast reconstruction.

Benefits of Combining Breast Surgeons with Plastic Surgeons for Full Spectrum Care

One of the main benefits of combining breast surgeons with plastic surgeons is improved outcomes and reduced risk of complications. Breast reconstruction is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution to ensure a successful outcome. By working together, breast and plastic surgeons can coordinate their efforts to minimize the risk of complications and improve the overall success of the procedure.

Another advantage of working with a team of experts in both breast surgery and plastic surgery is enhanced patient satisfaction and quality of life after reconstruction. Breast reconstruction is not just about physical appearance but also significantly impacts a patient’s mental and emotional well-being. By collaborating with both breast and plastic surgeons, patients can achieve their desired results and feel more confident and comfortable in their bodies.

The collaboration between breast and plastic surgeons provides patients with full spectrum care tailored to their individual needs and addresses all aspects of their treatment and recovery, resulting in improved outcomes, reduced risk of complications, and enhanced patient satisfaction and quality of life.

How is Breast Reconstruction Done and What is Used?

The decision to undergo breast reconstruction is not always an easy one to make and is very personal. Not all women are candidates for breast reconstructive surgery, and some choose not to pursue this option. For those that do, some wait for months or even years to have breast reconstruction, but the majority choose to do so at the same time as their lumpectomy or mastectomy.

Breast reconstruction is a complex surgical procedure that involves rebuilding the shape and appearance of the breast and requires the expertise of both breast surgeons and plastic surgeons to achieve optimal results.

Breast reconstruction can be done using a variety of techniques, but the two primary types of breast reconstruction procedures are implant-based and autologous. In some cases, a combination of the two methods may be used to achieve the desired results.

Implant-based reconstruction involves using a silicone or saline implant to rebuild the breast. The surgeon will place the implant either underneath the chest muscle or directly under the skin and tissue of the chest wall. The size and shape of the implant will be determined based on the patient’s preferences, body type, and other factors.

Autologous tissue reconstruction, also known as flap reconstruction, uses the patient’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast. The tissue is usually taken from the abdomen, back, or buttocks and then transplanted to the chest to create a new breast. There are several types of flap reconstruction, including the TRAM flap, DIEP flap, and latissimus dorsi flap.

The TRAM flap uses abdominal tissue to reconstruct the breast, while the DIEP flap uses abdominal tissue without sacrificing any muscle. The latissimus dorsi flap uses muscle and tissue from the back to create the new breast.

Sometimes a nipple sparing mastectomy can be performed, leaving the nipple and areola intact. If not, a plastic surgeon will likely also perform nipple reconstruction as part of the breast reconstruction surgery.

How Urgent Is Surgery For Breast Cancer?

The urgency of breast cancer surgery to remove cancerous tissue from the breast depends on several factors, including the stage and type of cancer and the patient’s overall health and preferences.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended as soon as possible to remove the cancerous tissue and prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. This is particularly true for more aggressive types of breast cancer, such as inflammatory breast cancer or triple-negative breast cancer.

For less aggressive forms of breast cancer, surgery may be scheduled within a few weeks or months of diagnosis. This allows time for further testing and evaluation to determine the best course of treatment, which may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy in addition to surgery.

There are also times when surgery may not be recommended at all, particularly for patients with early-stage breast cancer that is small and has not spread beyond the breast. Instead, these patients may be monitored closely with regular mammograms and other imaging tests to ensure the cancer has not grown or spread.

That said, even if cancer is in the early stages, a prophylactic mastectomy might be recommended for patients with a strong family history of breast cancer or those who carry certain genetic mutations, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2.

In terms of breast reconstruction surgery, there isn’t an urgency for surgery. Many women prefer immediate reconstruction, which is performed during the same surgery as the mastectomy or lumpectomy. Others prefer to wait a little while and have a delayed reconstruction, which can be done weeks, months, or even years later.

Whatever your decision, it’s crucial to have a supportive care team that includes both a breast surgeon and a plastic surgeon.

Full Spectrum Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery at The Surgical Clinic

At The Surgical Clinic, we believe that providing full spectrum care for breast cancer patients is crucial to achieving the best possible outcomes. We have breast and plastic surgeons that work in close collaboration to provide personalized care that addresses our patients’ medical and aesthetic needs.

By combining the expertise of both specialties, we can provide comprehensive care that improves patient satisfaction and quality of life. We encourage anyone seeking breast reconstruction or cosmetic procedures to consider Full Spectrum Care and to speak with our team to learn more about their options.