Breast Surgeons Use Cosmetic Technique for Lumpectomy Patients.

CancerDiseases and IllnessesHealthUniversity of MichiganColleges and UniversitiesBreast Cancer

When a woman survives breast cancer, you might think she'd be on top of the world.

But surgery to remove the cancer can drastically alter the appearance of her breasts.

In fact, a 2007 study at the University of Michigan found nearly one-third of women who had a lumpectomy were not happy with how they looked.

As a result, they were more likely to suffer depression and fear the cancer would return.

A growing number of breast surgeons are now using a cosmetic surgery technique called oncoplasty - that's saving lives and lifting spirits. Oncoplasty is being done here in Richmond at the Center for Breast Care.

Breast cancer survivors can bear the scars from life-saving surgery. Ninety percent of surgeries today are lumpectomies, which removes just the cancerous mass. It allows a woman to keep her breast. But in some cases it's disfiguring.

Breast cancer survivor Ann Mason doesn't have that worry. Mason's surgeon, Dr. Eric Melzig with the Center for Breast Care used oncoplasty to remove her tumor in 2007.

She says he did an excellent job and you would never know she had surgery. Dr. Melzig says with oncoplasty the emphasis is to still hold on to all the oncology principals in terms of removing tumors, getting negative margins making sure its entirely removed.

"But we also do it with thought once it's out how are we going to put things back together".

Dr. Melzig says the primary goal of oncoplasty is to remove all the cancer, and with preplanning, surgeons can remove the lump without disfigurement.

Dr. Melzig says the goal is to give patients the good oncology treatment, but also do it with plastic surgery techniques in mind.

Mason says her scar is underneath her breast which is not visible if she wears a bathing suit. And with it out of sight, she says it's not a daily reminder of her devastating diagnosis in 2007.

A woman is a good candidate for oncoplasty if the cancer is in one place, meaning it hasn't spread. And, if the tumor is small, less than an inch.

Back to that University of Michigan study, the lead researcher said doctors need to have more candid conversations with their patients about things like how their appearance may change resulting from treatment.

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