When cancer surgery (oncological surgery) and plastic surgery are combined in a single operation, it is referred to as oncoplastic surgery. The goal of oncoplastic surgery is to remove the portion of the breast containing the cancer, and then reshape the patient’s remaining breast tissue into a normal-appearing breast.
Oncoplastic surgery may involve a breast surgeon working together with a plastic surgeon, or a breast surgeon working independently. Many of the techniques used in oncoplastic surgery have been adopted from plastic surgical techniques used in breast reduction and breast reconstruction.
When a patient wants to save her breast, the surgeon must remove the cancer, as well as an edge of normal breast tissue (called a margin). Following removal of some cancers, especially if the cancer is larger, the normal nipple position may be shifted. In these cases, oncoplastic surgical techniques can allow repositioning of the nipple to a more natural appearing position. Oncoplastic surgery is also performed in patients who have large breasts and want a breast reduction.
When a patient has an oncoplastic procedure on the breast containing cancer, this may lead to a difference in the size and shape between the breasts (called asymmetry). In that case the breast surgeon can offer the patient the option of having a procedure performed on the other breast to make a better match. The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 assures that plastic surgery performed on either the breast with the cancer or the unaffected breast must be covered by insurance.
Not all patients undergoing breast conservation therapy require oncoplastic surgery. Your breast surgeon will be able to tell you whether you are a candidate.
The image below depicts some of the oncoplastic surgical approaches:
Image Source: http://chiltonchong.com.au/oncoplastics/