A new MGH study is one of the first to detail the outcomes of breast reconstruction surgery after having a nipple-sparing mastectomy, and this new, hard data, researchers say, is good news. In the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers looked at 500 reconstructions performed at the MGH over a five-year period.
“Immediate breast reconstruction after a nipple-sparing mastectomy is quite successful for the vast majority of patients, and the complication rate is low,” says Amy S. Colwell, MD, of the Division of Plastic Surgery and lead author of the report. “Nationally, when the procedure was first performed, there was a relatively high rate of nipple and skin loss. We aren’t seeing that as much anymore.”
Nipple-sparing mastectomies have become increasingly popular. Patients often say they want to preserve as much of their own breast as possible, including the nipple. “Reconstruction after nipple-sparing mastectomy often yields better cosmetic results since the natural nipple is preserved,” says Colwell. “With the popularity of the surgery, we wanted to really analyze the patient outcomes and make sure that this was a successful and safe procedure for women undergoing breast cancer treatment or taking preventative measures.”
The majority of breast reconstructions in the recent study were performed in one surgery immediately following the nipple-sparing mastectomy. That means the breast tissue underneath the skin and nipple were removed and replaced with an implant in one step allowing the patient to awake from surgery with a new breast. “Most centers in the country typically need two or three surgeries to complete the breast reconstruction process,” says Colwell. “At the MGH, we work as a team with our breast surgeons to offer complete reconstruction in one surgery for many patients.”
Barbara L. Smith, MD, PhD, director of the MGH Breast Program in Surgical Oncology, adds, “An increasing number of patients are now eligible for nipple-sparing mastectomy procedures with immediate reconstruction for cancer treatment and for risk-reducing surgery. The MGH is one of the leaders in this area – in January we crossed the 1,000 nipple-sparing mastectomy total and are one of the largest centers in the country for this type of surgery. I think we will see more of these procedures here and across the country.”
Read more articles from the 03/21/14 Hotline issue.