Nipple-sparing mastectomy allows natural-looking breast reconstruction
Stefanie was only 30 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “When my surgeons told me I would have to have a mastectomy, I had a big problem with that,” she recalls. “I’d seen the scarring and disfigurement some women have.
“Being young and single, it was a very big deal for me to preserve the skin and the nipple as much as possible,” Stefanie recalls. “Was it for vanity reasons? Of course it was.”
Fortunately, Stefanie benefited from a promising new procedure: nipple-sparing mastectomy and reconstruction. “It made a night-and-day difference,” she says. “Being able to keep my nipples has helped my self-esteem, self-confidence and sexuality. I didn’t want to feel less of a woman when I started dating again.”
Who is a candidate for nipple-sparing mastectomy and reconstruction?
A study in the Sept. 8, 2009 Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that nipple-sparing mastectomy may be suitable for some breast cancer patients, as well as for women undergoing a preventive mastectomy.
The researchers found that leaving the nipple and areola (the darker skin surrounding the nipple) in place during mastectomy allows plastic surgeons to reconstruct a more natural-looking breast—and may even preserve a degree of nipple sensation.
Preserving the natural beauty of your breasts
“Leaving the nipple in place after mastectomy allows women to have very natural-looking breasts after reconstructive surgery,” Dr. Rappaport explains. “After nipple-sparing mastectomy and reconstruction, some women actually have a better shape to their breasts than they did before.”
Sometimes a mastectomy can eliminate
the need for radiation
“If a smaller-breasted woman has a significant portion of tissue removed in a lumpectomy, then, from a cosmetic and reconstructive standpoint, it’s usually easier to have a completion mastectomy and breast reconstruction,” says Dr. Rappaport. “An added advantage is that these patients may not require radiation or chemotherapy. Each woman’s case has to be considered individually.”
Understand your reconstruction options
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can require you to make a number of important decisions very quickly—at a very emotional time. Sometimes it is difficult for Dr. Rappaport to give specific recommendations, particularly if you consult with him before definitive information is available about your breast cancer status.
However, talking with Dr. Rappaport before you have breast surgery will help you make an informed decision on your reconstruction options.