Comprehensive treatments to ensure well-being and quality of life
Breast cancer surgery is a demanding field of plastic surgery. It calls for broad and comprehensive knowledge and substantial expertise in the fields of breast surgery, tumour surgery and microsurgery. In this context it is also referred to as onco-plastic surgery. The aim of breast cancer surgery is to provide treatment for the condition by removing the cancer. However, at the same time, the patient’s physical integrity must also be considered. We do this by aiming to achieve the most appealing and aesthetically pleasing result possible. A key focus of breast-conserving treatment is on maintaining quality of life. In the case of mastectomy, this is achieved by restoring the female form through breast reconstruction. Breast cancer treatment should thus be as radical as necessary, but as gentle as possible.
«In breast cancer surgery, our focus is on completely removing the tumour and directly achieving the best possible aesthetic result.» Dr Cédric A. George
It is essential to gather all the information about the tumour before the first operation (mammogram, ultrasound, fine needle aspiration, punch biopsy, MRI), so that you can make the right decision together with your specialist. This also increases the chance that your first treatment will be successful and means that the number of subsequent operations can be restricted to the minimum necessary. The primary goal of breast cancer surgery is the complete removal of the tumour. Depending on the severity of the disease, the type of tumour, anatomical factors and the wishes of the patient, two different approaches are possible: breast-conserving surgery, or the complete removal of the breast (mastectomy) with immediate or delayed breast reconstruction.
Irrespective of which approach is chosen, the guiding principle is that the treatment should achieve the desired results as quickly as possible. If, for example, breast conservation is inappropriate, this avenue should not be pursued at all, and mastectomy and breast reconstruction should be carried out instead. We also do surgeries, when people are not happy with their results of previous surgeries. It is not uncommon for contra-indicated or poorly performed breast-conserving surgery to ultimately culminate in a mastectomy, either because tumour cells remained in the breast, or because the aesthetic result is unacceptable. This is a very painful and stressful experience for the patient, which they could have been spared.
It is usually recommended that a breast reconstruction be carried out in the same operation as the mastectomy, but it can also be carried out at a later date.
PRIMARY BREAST RECONSTRUCTION
With the current radiotherapy methods, more effective medication and progress in reconstruction methods, immediate reconstruction following mastectomy or removal of the tumour is now one of the options of first choice. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be given straight after the breast reconstruction. If the breast is reconstructed immediately, a more aesthetically pleasing result can be expected. In addition, it means that the woman can achieve the treatment goal in a single operation, which is positive from a psychological point of view.
SECONDARY BREAST RECONSTRUCTION
Many patients only consider breast reconstruction at a later time: based on their own preference or because they did not have any information about the current options in onco-plastic surgery at the time of the disease. This is called a secondary reconstruction and is of course still possible at a later time, without any negative medical effect on the course of the disease. Depending on the situation, the aesthetic result is, however, not always comparable to that of an immediate reconstruction. Nevertheless, many patients feel that the restoration of body image and disappearance of the mastectomy scar are a great relief.
A variety of proven, highly innovative surgical methods are also used for breast reconstruction today. There are two types of reconstruction technique: reconstruction with a breast implant or reconstruction using the patient’s own tissue, for which muscle or fatty tissue can be used. Combinations of different approaches are also applied. Detailed descriptions of those techniques can be found on our Swiss website.
Breast cancer, also known as carcinoma of the breast, is a malignant tumour of the breast. It is the most common form of cancer for women in Switzerland, where one in every four female cancer patients has breast cancer. According to the Swiss Society for Senology, around 5,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. The risk of disease gradually increases from the age of 40. The frequency of this form of cancer in Europe as a whole has also risen in the past 20 years. In very rare cases, breast cancer may also develop in men.
HOW DOES BREAST CANCER DEVELOP?
Breast cancer occurs when normal cells in the glandular tissue, which consists of lobes and milk ducts, transform into malignant cells. This results in uncontrolled and rapid growth. Over time, solid masses or lumps with surface irregularities will form and are palpable.
IS SCREENING MORE DIFFICULT IF YOU HAVE BREAST IMPLANTS?
Breast screening can also be carried out if you have implants. Ultrasound and MRI are particularly suitable in this case.
CAN BREAST RECONSTRUCTION ADVERSELY AFFECT THE HEALING PROCESS?
It is now clear that this is not the case. Scientific studies have shown that breast reconstructions do not negatively influence the prognosis.
CAN CANCER BE COMPLETELY CURED, OR IS THERE A RISK OF THE TUMOUR GROWING BACK?
A cure is possible in the majority of cases. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, the chance of recovery is greater than 90 per cent. The exact prognosis depends on the type of tumour and its stage of growth. Unfortunately, the risk of recurrence or the appearance of a new tumour can never be completely eliminated, even many years after treatment. With today’s treatment methods, however, the prospects of maintaining a high quality of life are very good.