As recent articles in the media have stressed, successful breast cancer treatment and reconstruction involves close collaboration among all those treating the patient. Angelina Jolie and her plastic surgeon have been very public about her mastectomies and reconstruction and have helped shine a light on the importance of a close, collaborative relationship among the doctors and patients. We couldn’t agree more.
We are fortunate to have such a team here in Lawrence, and have recognized the importance of this team approach for many years. Even before establishing the Breast Center around 10 years ago we were already working closely with our general surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, and others to begin planning a treatment strategy for the patient shortly after the diagnosis of cancer was made. As reconstructive surgeons, we often meet with patients early in the process to discuss available options and make suggestions as to the most appropriate reconstructive approach and timing (immediate or delayed). Most importantly, we have often already been in communication with your other providers before we even meet you for the first time and continue to work closely with them throughout your treatment. Even if a patient chooses not to undergo reconstruction at the time of her mastectomy, we can help her make this informed decision and even become involved in the mastectomy planning, so that incisions are placed to make reconstruction easier in the future if the patient should change her mind.
Breast reconstruction should not be seen as an isolated procedure but part of a collaborative effort to treat the breast cancer patient and restore her to physical and emotional health. Communication is an old fashioned, low-tech approach that consistently makes our advanced treatments work better.