For patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, deciding on a surgical option can be a distressing experience. Fortunately, when surgeons work together to collaborate on a course of treatment, patients have a smoother experience with better outcomes and feel more supported throughout the process. With all the recent advancements in breast cancer reconstruction, collaboration between surgeons has become an important part of patient care. At The Oregon Clinic, our general surgeons work in tandem with our plastic surgeons to ensure patients receive the best treatment possible and help them feel less victimized by cancer.
“Having a team approach is very reassuring for patients. And for surgeons, collaboration is beneficial because you can see the problem from a different lens and find a new perspective for treating the patient.”
When patients undergo breast reconstruction surgery, the general surgeons and plastic surgeons at The Oregon Clinic will collaborate to ensure the best possible results from diagnosis, to completion of reconstruction, and long-term follow-up. Because of the range of specialties we treat at The Oregon Clinic, collaboration between surgeons comes naturally here. “Having a team approach is very reassuring for patients. And for surgeons, collaboration is beneficial because you can see the problem from a different lens and find a new perspective for treating the patient,” says Dr. Bruce Webber, Plastic Surgeon at The Oregon Clinic.
The collaboration process typically begins once the general surgeon has met with the patient and discussed their surgery options, depending on the stage and condition of their cancer. They will then refer the patient to the plastic surgeon, who will discuss their options for reconstruction. The collaborative role of both surgeons is to help patients fully understand their illness and treatment options while applying the latest evidence-based recommendations and surgical techniques to their reconstruction. “Communication with the patient is the first step in treating their malignancy,” says Dr. Webber.
After deciding on the best course of treatment, the surgeons will work side-by-side in the operating room – literally across the table from each other – working to reduce time in surgery and collaborate on incision placement. “It can be challenging in the beginning, but once surgeons are comfortable working together and anticipating each other’s techniques, we can achieve a better outcome for the patient. It’s a true partnership,” says Dr. Chelsea Hardin, General Surgeon at The Oregon Clinic.
A typical breast reconstruction collaboration involves combining a breast lift or mammoplasty with a lumpectomy (a partial mastectomy). A patient with large, heavy breasts can have difficulty with radiation treatment, so a lumpectomy can make radiation easier and more effective. After radiation, the breast will shrink and the patient is left with smaller, lifted breasts that are more even and less prone to back pain or discomfort.
Some breast cancers may require a mastectomy, which is the removal of the entire breast. In these situations, The Oregon Clinic general and plastic surgeons collaborate to optimize both the oncological (cancer care) and reconstructive results. Skin sparing and, when appropriate, nipple sparing procedures help preserve the breast skin, nipple and areola for better cosmetic results and less scarring. The plastic surgeons can then offer options for reconstruction that fit the patient’s needs. “Women with breast cancer are facing a particularly challenging time in their lives,” says Dr. Shaghayegh Aliabadi-Wahle, General Surgeon at The Oregon Clinic. “Our goal as a team is to provide not only optimal cancer care, but to preserve our patients’ body image which can positively impact their quality of life.
To learn more about our breast surgery options, call 503-488-2344.