In Perfect Harmony

Oncoplastic breast surgery eloquently blends oncology and plastic surgery

perfect harmony

Surgical options after a breast cancer diagnosis have advanced significantly, with some of the newer solutions inspired by women themselves. One such procedure, oncoplastic surgery, is offered to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital (IMVH) breast cancer patients, although many women have never heard about the procedure.

“Oncoplasty uses surgical techniques developed for cosmetic procedures such as breast lift or reduction and applies them in a significantly different approach than traditional breast conservation surgery, or lumpectomy,” says David C. Weintritt, MD, FACS, director of the IMVH Breast Program and founder of the National Breast Center and Foundation. “Our initial use of this approach involved large-breasted women who had a considerable amount of cancerous tissue in their breast that normally would require a mastectomy. We realized that for these women we could safely remove a third or more of their breast tissue, avoid the need for mastectomy and give them a healthier breast in the process. I remember our first patient, who I saw as a second opinion after another surgeon recommended a mastectomy. She was an excellent candidate for oncoplastic surgery and her results, both in regard to removing her cancer and giving a positive cosmetic result, were tremendous,” Dr. Weintritt says.

Simply put, oncoplasty combines a traditional lumpectomy with a standard breast reduction or lift techniques that result in only one breast conservation surgery. The breast surgeon removes enough breast tissue to ensure full cancer removal, and to also achieve the patient’s desired breast size and shape. The breast surgeonandplastic surgeon work in tandem to remove the cancer and immediately after the oncologic surgery sculpt the breast tissue, tighten breast skin and give the breast the desired appearance. After confirmation of clear margins and completion of radiation, the non-cancer breast is typically lifted and/or reduced to create symmetry between both breasts—which is typically covered by health insurance.

David C. Weintritt, MD, FACS

Oncoplasty delivers additional benefits:

  • The patient is typically pleased with her breast shape and size post-surgery.
  • Recovery takes days, as opposed to weeks or months after a mastectomy.

Removing the cancer and simultaneously reducing the breast prior to radiation treatment comes with a medical benefit, too. “We realized fairly soon that oncoplasty reduces the radiation target area, which makes it easier to plan radiation treatment,” Dr. Weintritt says. 

There will always be cases in which a mastectomy is the best medical choice. And for small-breasted women diagnosed with breast cancer, traditional breast-conserving surgery is the more common medically recommended option although plastic surgery techniques have improved operations for these women as well. But for many large-breasted women, oncoplastic surgery can provide a positive appearance with significantly less surgery.

The Breast Program at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital offers expert breast specialists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who provide the latest in breast surgery and treatment. To make an appointment, call 703-664-7063.

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