Letters to the Editor

Breakthroughs give women more options when facing disease

As a plastic surgeon practicing in Atlanta who regularly works with breast cancer survivors and those at risk of the disease, I strongly urge support of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by reminding the women you love to schedule regular cancer screenings.

For women diagnosed with cancer, advances in plastic surgery and breakthrough legislation have made the devastating news easier to bear. Improvements in post-surgical therapies, including breast reconstruction options, are helping allay the fear of disfigurement from mastectomy. Typically, plastic surgeons make recommendations based upon patients' age, health, anatomy and goals.

The most common procedures include skin expansion followed by use of implants, or flap reconstruction.

Breast conservation surgery, newer procedures such as skin-sparing mastectomies, improved implant designs and adjuvant therapy have all helped advance breast cancer treatment and have improved aesthetic results.

In the past five years, new designs in tissue expansion have streamlined the reconstructive process, decreased pain and increased safety with more consistent and pleasing results.

In the near future we anticipate FDA approval of a new generation of gel implants that will greatly expand a woman's choice in reconstruction.

Ongoing research with adult stem cells offers hope for improved contour and decreased scarring with an improved aesthetic result.

My fellow members of American Society of Plastic Surgeons and I are well aware of the devastating effects of breast cancer, and we support all women in their fight against the disease.

For all breast cancer patients and for those at high risk for the disease, I suggest talking to an American Society of Plastic Surgeons member regarding reconstructive and preventative options and discuss the pros, cons and realistic expectations of those choices.

To assist women with this decision, I recommend visiting the Web sites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (www.plasticsurgery.org), the Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov), the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and www.breastimplantsafety.org. For additional information, call the American Cancer Society of Plastic Surgeons at 1-888-4PLASTIC.

- Dr. Farzad R. Nahai