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Radiation after Breast Reconstruction

Previous studies have shown breast cancer patients who receive radiation therapy after undergoing breast reconstruction and a mastectomy may be more likely to develop complications.// However, a new study shows this may not be the case.

Researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center studied 85 women with breast cancer who underwent a mastectomy, breast reconstruction, and postoperative radiation between 1987 and 2002. Seventy patients received radiation after their mastectomy and reconstruction procedure. The other 15 patients received radiation prior to reconstruction. Fifty patients underwent a reconstructive procedure called tissue expander placement with or without an implant, and 35 patients received a transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous (TRAM) reconstructive flap.

Results of the study show, after five years, none of the patients who received a TRAM flap had major complications or required corrective surgery. Only 5 percent of patients who were in the tissue expander placement group had a major complication, and two of these patients had to have their implant removed. Nearly 40 percent of patients in the TRAM group had minor complications, and about 15 percent of the women with implants had minor complications.

Penny R. Anderson, M.D., from the Fox Chase Cancer Center, says, "What’s interesting about this reported complication rate for breast implants is that not only is it low compared to other studies involving radiation after reconstruction, it is also low when considering the rate of major complications following reconstruction when radiation is not a factor.

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