Radiotherapy and breast reconstruction: oncology, cosmesis and complications
Breast reconstruction plays a highly important role in the management of patients with breast cancer, from a psycho-social and sexual stand-point. Given that immediate breast reconstruction does not impair the oncologic safety of breast cancer management, with no increase in local recurrence rates, and no delays in the initiation of adjuvant chemotherapy or radiotherapy, the need to balance cosmesis in reconstruction with the oncologic needs of breast cancer patients is no more evident than in the discussion of radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is essential adjuvant therapy in the treatment of breast cancer, with the use of adjuvant radiotherapy widely shown to reduce local recurrence after both partial and total mastectomy and shown to prolong both disease-free and overall survival in patients with nodal disease. In the setting of breast reconstruction, the effects of radiotherapy are potentially two-fold, with consideration required of the impact of breast reconstruction on the administration of and the initiation of radiotherapy, as well as the effects of radiotherapy on operative complications and cosmetic outcome following immediate breast reconstruction. The current editorial piece aims to analyze this balance, contrasting both autologous and implant-based reconstruction. The literature is still evolving as to the relative role of autologous vs. alloplastic reconstruction in the setting of radiotherapy, and the more recent introduction of acellular dermal matrix and other compounds further complicate the evidence. Fat grafting and evolving techniques in breast reconstruction will herald new discussions on this front.