Breast Cancer Awareness 101

breast cancer awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness, Be Aware

One of the biggest concerns for all women (and men should be aware), is breast cancer. Check out this doctor’s breast cancer awareness advice and make sure you stay up to date on your health!

Be in the know

When it comes to breast cancer awareness, we need to be transparent. In the United States, it is the second most common cancer in women behind skin cancers.

Fortunately, the breast gland is basically an external gland and can be screened effectively with self-examinations and routine radiologic/ultrasonic studies. Breast cancer can occur in one or both breasts and in both men and women.

Early detection is key to improve survival rates.

With the diagnosis, the treatment options include using chemicals (medications), radiation, and surgery.

The long-term study results, which are constantly coming in, demonstrate good success with combination therapy. Using both the nonsurgical and surgical methods of treatment produces the best results.

Removing the Cancer Itself

Breast Cancer Awareness 101 pinterestWhen it comes to breast cancer awareness, the breast gland itself is managed by diagnostic biopsy. This may be done using a needle or require a surgical biopsy. Then the treatment team gets together and determines the most efficacious way to battle breast cancer’s unique characteristics.

These cancer characteristics are commonly called markers. Some of the markers will dictate specific guidelines to be followed to optimize survival rates. The breast surgery is planned by having the patient meet with the breast surgeon and then if needed the reconstructive plastic surgeon.

The breast tumor removal options will include two basic plans, one is to remove the tumor with adequate margins as a lump of tissue and leave residual breast tissue behind.

This is called a lumpectomy. Essentially all lumpectomy patients will require radiation treatments after breast surgery. This is done in an effort to eradicate any potential cancer cells from growing in the remaining breast tissue.

Removing The Entire Breast

The second method of management for the cancer is to remove the entire involved breast. This is done in an effort to be sure no tumor cells still exist in the breast. When the entire breast is removed, it is called a mastectomy.

The mastectomy surgery will typically involve removing the nipple and areola along with the breast tissue. This will result in a loss of breast tissue volume and therefore breast size and also a loss of skin. This loss of skin will result in a loss of shape and symmetry compared to the other breast.

If the tumor characteristics or markers allow the option to leave the nipple and areola behind, the resulting breast shape will be improved. Leaving this breast tissue behind may increase the likelihood of recurrence in some cases.

This increased risk is what has to be weighed against the benefits of the breast shape.

Restoring the Breast

Breast cancer awareness is about knowing the symptoms and the treatments.

The plastic and reconstructive surgeon’s job is to try and achieve a restoration of breast symmetry. These surgeries may involve only the affected breast and in other situations, it will involve surgery on both breasts.

The types of breast cancer reconstruction can be broken down into two main types.

One type is using only the natural tissues of the body.

The other is to use breast implants known as prostheses to rebuild the breast mound. In most current breast reconstruction using breast implants for volume restoration, there will be a limitation of skin. This is because some skin is removed with the nipple and areola. In these instances, a tissue expander is placed.

This device is filled with saline after the surgery has been completed and the patient is in the healing phase. The tissue expanders purpose is to stretch or grow more skin. This extra skin will then be used during the reconstruction’s second phase to create a better-shaped breast.

Breast Cancer AwarenessIn this second surgery, the breast expander will be removed and the permanent implant will be placed. In some cases, both natural tissues and breast implants are used to build the best breast shape.

There are many factors when considering which option is the best for a particular patient. It can be a very complicated process to determine which type would be best indicated for a patient.

It is during the reconstructive surgery consultation that these options are reviewed in great detail. It typically takes an hour to go over these options and what the expectations should be from the options.

After deciding which method, the surgery is scheduled and is typically performed at the time of the mastectomy. This is known as immediate reconstruction.

Delayed reconstruction is performed after the mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy have been completed and the patient is ready to recreate a breast mound. The delayed reconstructions may be one year after mastectomy or longer. It may even occur a decade later.

Patient Care

A patient’s care is managed by the medical doctor called an oncologist and this care is for the chemotherapy. A different doctor called a radiation oncologist manages the radiation therapy. The surgery is performed by the breast surgeon and the plastic reconstructive surgeon. This is truly a team effort to create and facilitate the best care for the patient.

The most significant take home message is the early detection of the breast cancer. This is the most important determinant of long term survival.


Breast cancer is something we all need to be aware of.

So when it comes to breast cancer awareness, make sure as you age to stay up to date with your screening, stay on top of it, and take the best care of yourself as possible! Be aware!

Dr. Michael J. Brown, MD. Founder and Medical Director of the Loudoun Center for Plastic Surgery and Dermatology, Dr. Brown has paid particular attention to all facets for safety and personal experience.
Dr. Michael J. Brown
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