You Have Options

Guest post by: Jason B. Lichten, MD, FACS
Member of Komen Columbus Medical Advisory Council and the Inaugural Marathon for the Cure Team

If you’ve had a mastectomy, odds are, you didn’t know all of the choices you had for breast reconstruction.  An astounding 70% of women eligible for breast cancer reconstruction are unaware they have options for immediately beginning the process of restoring their breasts. This stunning data came from a study released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.  In fact, there are a number of choices to rebuild surgically removed breasts, which can be tailored to each patient’s individual needs.  There are also more and better support systems to help patients through the process.

Advances in surgical technique give women more choices to restore their shape after mastectomy.  Some women opt to have their plastic surgeon insert a breast implant to create a shape resembling the other breast.  Others choose to use their own tissue, muscle and skin to rebuild the breast using a flap.  Each of these options can be performed either during the mastectomy surgery as an “immediate” reconstruction, or later as a “delayed” reconstruction.  In immediate reconstruction, a general surgeon performs the mastectomy and then the plastic surgeon begins the reconstruction.  In a delayed reconstruction, the general surgeon will do the mastectomy and the plastic surgeon will perform the reconstruction months, even years, later.  The right choice varies for each woman, depending upon her lifestyle, treatment plan, body type, general health and her goals.  The patient will work with her plastic surgeon to determine the best individualized plan.

A support system throughout the breast cancer journey is critical.  You should lean on friends and family as much as possible.  Some patients also find it helpful to join support groups and attend breast cancer events.  Komen Columbus’s Race for the Cure is one of the largest gatherings to support breast cancer in the world.  It is humbling, inspiring and empowering for anyone touched by breast cancer.  My office, Central Ohio Plastic Surgery, Inc., has hosted events where breast cancer patients have connected and formed an incredible bond of support lasting well beyond the event.

The idea that 70% of women don’t know they have the option for immediate reconstruction is staggering.  Although reconstruction may not be the right choice for every woman, at the end of the day, the choice belongs to the patient to decide what works for her.  A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, but doesn’t have to be devastating.  Women are being diagnosed earlier and survival rates can be very high.  Scientific advances are giving women more reconstruction options with more natural looking results.  Arming yourself with information and creating a team with your support system, general surgeon, oncologist and plastic surgeon is critical to your success.

Jason B. Lichten, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon.  He is the founder and director of Central Ohio Plastic Surgery, Inc. with offices in Lancaster and Columbus.  For more information about breast reconstruction and other plastic surgery, call (740) 653-5064 or visit