Whether it’s you, your coworker, friend or mother, the decision to have to have a breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy is not always an easy one for women to make. For many breast cancer survivors, the surgery represents a chance to restore the look and feel of the breasts they’ve lost to cancer. For older women, it’s another invasive surgery that presents its own set of risks. A new study shows that when considering undergoing a breast reconstructive surgery, older women need not worry that their age poses a larger risk for complications.
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A study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found that older patients who’ve undergone a mastectomy benefit as much from a breast reconstruction as younger patients. The study involved more than 1,500 breast reconstruction patients in three age groups: under the age 45, 45 to 60, and over 60.
According to the findings, the two younger groups were just as satisfied with results of the surgery and the older group was almost as equally satisfied. Older women reported higher sexual well-being after the procedure. The study also showed that whether the reconstruction included use of existing breast tissue or implants, age did not factor into an increased risk of complications. Notably, the women who got implants had fewer complications than those whose own tissue was used.
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For Irvine, CA, plastic surgeon Andrew Smith, MD, the study findings show what surgeons who perform these surgeries every day already know. “Breast reconstruction can be done at advanced age as long as you take into consideration any other comorbidities and it can be done successfully at an a age greater than 60, no question,” says Dr. Smith. “For women in their 70s and 80s, at this point in time I think it depends on the overall health of the patient and their medical issues.”
Although the risks of complication may not be greater, surgeons do factor age into their surgical approach. “Skin tends to get more inelastic over time and that has to be taken into consideration and sometimes you have to vary your technique for reconstruction. But it can be done and patients older than 60 get just as much benefits out of the reconstruction compared to younger patients,” adds the doctor.
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