Women undergoing breast cancer surgery today can be treated with advanced techniques that remove the cancer while preserving the physical appearance of the breast and hiding surgical scars. “These techniques allow women to move on with their lives as they complete breast cancer treatment,” said Sunny Mitchell, MD, Medical Director of The Breast Center at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. “We are able to minimize and hide the surgery scars by simply taking advantage of anatomy, so women don’t have a daily reminder that they have had breast surgery.”
Dr. Mitchell is an expert in the field of Oncoplastic Breast Surgery, which combines breast cancer surgery with the latest plastic surgery techniques. These new techniques are just as effective at removing cancer and just as safe as traditional surgery.
She treats many of her patients with the “Hidden Scar” approach. “We place the incision in a location that is most likely to heal very well and hardly be visible once healed, such as around the areola, under the breast, or in the armpit,” she said.
New Mastectomy Techniques
It is even possible to have a mastectomy with reconstruction without a less visible scar. “In a majority of cases, we can do nipple-sparing mastectomies, which is in marked contrast to how mastectomies were done in the past,” Dr. Mitchell said. “We are able to offer these procedures as a result of advances in medical knowledge and surgical instruments.” “We often can preserve the nipple and place the incision in the fold under the breast. If a woman decides to have immediate breast reconstruction after her breast cancer surgery, she will wake up in the recovery room and look down at her chest and see what looks like intact breasts”
A woman who opts for breast reconstruction has a choice of a breast implant or tissue from their own body. “The tissue can come from a variety of places, depending on their individual body,” Dr. Mitchell said. “These can include the belly, side of the chest or leg for example.” When a woman has breast reconstruction immediately after a mastectomy, Dr. Mitchell works alongside a plastic surgeon. “I remove the breast tissue, and the plastic surgeon replaces the area under the skin, where the breast tissue was, either with an implant or with the woman’s own tissue.”
Look Better, Feel Better
Research has shown that women’s appearance after breast cancer surgery can have a psychological impact, Dr. Mitchell notes. “Women’s surgical scars can affect many aspects of their lives—including their sexuality, their feelings of self-consciousness with their partner, and their ability to feel comfortable in their clothing,” she said. “These new techniques that improve appearance have the potential to improve their psychological and social well-being by minimizing as much as possible the effects of surgery.”
Dr. Mitchell says that many women who get a diagnosis of breast cancer want immediate surgery. “I tell my patients they have time to research and consider all their options to come up with the best plan for them,” she said. “Breast cancer surgery has evolved so much in the last few years. We are able to really tailor the procedure to the patient. We listen to each woman’s concerns and her wishes for how she wants to look after surgery, and we work with her to make that happen.”