Sun Safety Tips

 

Close up on woman applying sun cream on her arm with a spray at the beach on a warm, sunny day. Sunscreen protection, skin cancer concept

The warmer, sunnier weather is calling you to the great outdoors, but breast cancer survivors need to take extra special precautions to care for their skin. Why? Both chemotherapy and radiation treatments can make the skin more sensitive to the sun up to two years after treatment is over.

Before you head to the park or to the beach, It’s important for breast cancer patients to follow these tips to stay safe in the sun:

  1. Wait Just a Bit

If you just finished radiation therapy, give your skin a little time to heal before enjoying the sun. It is typically recommended that radiation patients wait a few weeks before venturing out. When exposed to the sun, radiation therapy can cause something called ‘radiation recall’, where the treated area will “remember” that it was exposed to radiation and become red, inflamed, and tender again.

  1. Use Sunscreen

According to the American Cancer Society, sunscreen for breast cancer survivors should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The SPF number is the level of protection that the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Keep in mind that no sunscreen completely protects you, so you should combine other safety tips to increase your chance of protection.

Not sure what you should use? Every breast cancer patient is different, so talk to your oncologist and your radiation oncologist to see what they want you to use. If you have already had a negative reaction to the sun or are sensitive to certain sunscreen ingredients, they may have a different product recommendation.

  1. Cover Up

The area of your breasts that received radiation therapy should be protected from the sun at all times with clothing and sunblock, especially if the area is already red or ‘burned’ because of treatments. It’s also important to keep your surgical scars covered.

  1. Sit in the Shade

Unless your doctor specifically tells you to not go out in the sun at all, you should limit your sun exposure during the times that the ultraviolet or UV rays are the strongest. This is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s best to enjoy the early morning or later evening sun.

  1. Protect Your Scalp

Chemotherapy causes hair loss, so if your hair is thinning or if you are completely bald, make sure you wear a hat or apply sunscreen to your scalp – and don’t forget your ears too!

  1. Don’t Get Overheated

Some chemotherapy medications can cause your body to become overheated in the sun, so consider wearing a wide brim hat or a hat that is made from natural fabrics so your scalp can ‘breathe.’

Don’t use tanning beds: They employ the same dangerous ultraviolet rays that the sun emits.

You can certainly enjoy the warm summer outdoors without baking in the sun. Remember, you just finished treatment and need to take it easy and keep your body healthy.

Q&A #2: May 2019

Q:
I had a bilateral mastectomy in October 2016. I finished radiation on the right side in January 2017, and underwent bilateral latissimus flap reconstruction in August 2017. I had capsular contracture (when the scar tissue or capsule that normally forms around the implant tightens and squeezes the implant) on the right side and the implant changed out in March 2018. Once again, I have capsular contracture on the same side. What do I do? They are absolutely not even close to symmetrical. I am only 46. I am kind of thinking that I should just forget reconstruction even though I don’t really want to go flat.

A:
Without knowing all of the details about your situation, I think there is a reasonable chance you have some good options left. Here are a few potential ones:
1. We have reconstructed more than 1,800 breasts with natural tissue alone (no implants) using the abdomen or buttocks. If you have any tissue in those areas, that is our most frequently used option.
2. We have, on several occasions, reconstructed breasts with latissimus flaps alone, with added free-fat grafts, which can sometimes double (or more) the size of the latissimus flap, and make implants unnecessary.
3. For the last 4 1/2 years, we have done all of our implant reconstructions exclusively in front of the muscle, using a full Alloderm (specially preserved donor skin) wrap. This has completely changed our outlook on implant breast reconstruction, and has on occasion produced surprisingly good results – even in radiated breasts. I have converted several “implant-behind-the-muscle” patients (some who already had latissimus flaps) to in-front-of-the-muscle, and they all feel that it is a significant improvement. Free-fat grafting can also be added to implant-based reconstruction to improve shape, size and overall naturalness.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with going flat if you are sure that is what you want to do, but it might be premature for you to decide to do that only because you don’t think you have any other options. I would be delighted to discuss your situation in more detail by phone, if you wish, or see you in person for a consultation.
Thanks for your question! We look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Dr. Richard M Kline JR MD

Q&A #1: May 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q:

I had bilateral mastectomy on May 11, 2018, as a result of inflammatory breast cancer. I did have a tumor, but I also had a complete response to chemo and clear margins at surgery, followed by six weeks of radiation. A 5mm metastasis to one lymph node and a total of two lymph nodes were removed. I do have scar tissue and some swelling on the affected side, but I control it with OT and exercise. I am 61 years old, and otherwise healthy. Am I a candidate for reconstruction and, if so, how long should I wait? I currently see my oncologist yearly and my surgeon every six months for a vascular ultrasound.

Thank you!

A:
You are absolutely a candidate for reconstruction with your own tissue, and we would be happy to help you any way we can. I feel it is rarely, if ever, necessary to wait more than six months after radiation for reconstruction, and you are well past that. Also, your history of radiation, fortunately, has no impact on our ability to reconstruct you successfully using your own tissue.
I would be happy to chat with you further by phone, or see you in consultation in our Charleston office. Please let us know what we can do to help.

Best,
Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD

Ask the Doctor – Can I Have Large, Under Muscle Implants Replaced With Smaller Ones? Will This Make Them More Comfortable?

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I’ve had my breast tissues removed and I now have implants. They are under my muscles, too large and very uncomfortable. Is there anything you can do to fix this and make a smaller implant? I am very unhappy with the way my breasts look, This is contributing to already very low self-esteem issues. Can you help me? What are my options?

Answer:  There is an excellent chance that we can help you. The country is currently undergoing a paradigm shift in implant-based breast reconstruction, with more and more surgeons placing the implants in front of the muscle, rather than behind. This allows for numerous potential advantages, and few disadvantages. We have been converting patients with unsatisfactory sub-muscular reconstructions to reconstructions in front of the muscle for a few years, with generally good-to-excellent results.

Another option is to remove your implants and re-build your breasts only with your own natural tissue, usually from tummy or buttocks. This is a larger operation than implant reconstruction but obviously results in an even more natural result.

I would be happy to discuss your situation further with you by phone, if you wish, or see you in my office when convenient.

Thanks for your question.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask The Doctor – Do You Perform DIEP Free Flap Procedure Without Cutting Or Harvesting Muscle Tissue and Do You Accept BCBS Reimbursement?

White orchidsThis week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: Do you perform the DIEP free flap procedure without cutting or harvesting any muscle tissue? How many of these are performed by the physicians per year? Do you accept the BCBS reimbursement rates for this procedure?

Answer:

Thanks for your inquiry.

My partner and I are both trained directly by Dr. Robert Allen, the inventor of the DIEP (and sGAP, iGAP, PAP, etc.). He still drops by and operates with us occasionally. We will NEVER take any muscle tissue. However, with rare exceptions (dictated only by individual anatomy), it is impossible to harvest a DIEP without temporarily dividing part of the rectus abdominus muscle (although this almost never results in any functional impairment). If you have read or heard otherwise, that source is simply incorrect. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone who feels otherwise.

We currently perform (150 – 170) perforator flaps for breast reconstruction each year. We have performed a total of about 1700 flaps, of which about 1400 are DIEPs, about 300 are GAPs, and a few are PAPs, tDAPs, etc. Our DIEP survival rate when last calculated was 99.08%, our sGAP survival rate 95.7%. I would not be surprised if these were the best flap survival statistics in the world, but of course I can’t be sure, because we don’t know the details of other groups’ statistics.

We accept insurance as full payment from all carriers doing business in SC, and we are usually “in network by proxy” (or something like that) with all other carriers in the US.

We happily accept patients who have been operated on unsuccessfully by other physicians, no matter how many times, and no matter how bad the situation may seem.

I would be happy to discuss the particulars of your situation with you by phone or in person at any time.

Thanks again for your question, and have a great weekend!

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask The Doctor: I Had A Breast Expander Removed and Can’t Re-start Breast Reconstruction For 6 Months. What Are My Best Options?

Daliahs

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I have started my reconstruction, but had to have one side removed and can’t start on that side for 6 more months. My one side has 80 ml saline in it. What are my best options?

Answer #1: Can you tell me why you had to have one side removed?

Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD

Answer from the patient: It started with a blood clot and just kept getting infecting.  So my surgeon removed it so I could start my chemo and to get the infection cleared up, which it has cleared up completely.  I have started my chemo, which I have 4 to 5 treatments. Then after 6 months from have inflated removed I can start the reconstruction procedure.

Answer #2:  Sorry you’re having trouble. I think your surgeon was wise to remove the expander, you certainly don’t want to delay chemo.

If you weren’t radiated, it may be reasonable to try another expander after finishing chemo. I think the chances of it working may be less than usual since you’ve had trouble before, but nonetheless, it may work next time.

If you would like to forego expanders/implants and have reconstruction with your own tissue, the chance of getting an infection will be much less, and the quality of the reconstructed breasts will be much more natural. The surgery involved is larger, and it’s not for everyone, but once you are done there is essentially nothing to ever go wrong later. Previous unsuccessful reconstruction attempts with implants generally don’t affect our ability to reconstruct you with your own tissue, so if you want to try implants again after chemo, the natural tissue option will still potentially be there if implants don’t work again.

I would be happy to chat with you more about your situation at any time if you wish.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor -After Two Different Types Of Reconstruction Over The Years, What Can I Do To Regain Some Symmetry?

Wild RoseThis week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I had my first mastectomy in 1991 with a tram flap reconstruction. My second mastectomy was in 2004 with an s-gap reconstruction. In the last few years, my breasts have become increasingly uneven and have shifted on my chest. Is there something I can do to my reconstructed breasts to regain some sort of symmetry?

Answer:  Without knowing any more specifics of your situation, I can state in general terms that asymmetry after reconstruction is very, very common and that there are a host of techniques which we routinely use to minimize asymmetry as much as possible. Some of these techniques are fat grafting, reduction, contour alteration, and position changing. We have currently performed almost 1700 perforator flap reconstructions, and we likely have significant experience dealing with situations very similar to yours. I would be happy to see you in consultation any time or chat on the phone if you wish.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Would I Be A Candidate For DIEP Flap Surgery After Previous Expanders Are Removed And Will You Accept VA Insurance?

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and I am terribly dissatisfied with my care so far. 11 Months later, the expanders are still painful. I will be asking to have them removed this week.

I have 2 questions for you. After I  have the expanders removed would I still be a candidate for the DIEP flap? I am still going to chemo (Herceptin) which will run until the end of November, provided there are no more setbacks. My second question is, do you accept VA insurance? One form of payment is through the VA another is Veteran’s Choice. I am not sure which would cover outside care. I look forward to your response.

Answer: I’m sorry you have had so much trouble, but there is a very good chance that we can help you.

Your previous unfortunate experience with expanders does not in any way decrease our ability to successfully reconstruct you with DIEP flaps. The blood vessels which we use to vascularize your flaps are well below the area where tissue expanders are placed, and we have successfully reconstructed literally hundreds of patients in your situation. One potential advantage to having the expanders removed sooner rather than later is that we get an MRI angiogram on all patients who are scheduled for perforator flap breast reconstruction, and most breast tissue expanders are not MRI-compatible. If they use a little magnet to find the port before they fill your expanders, then you can’t get an MRI with those expanders in place.

We have worked with the VA many times in the past, and Gail, our insurance expert, will contact you to investigate your situation further.

Thank you very much for your inquiry, and I look forward to meeting you.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Exams Of My Implants Have Shown Nothing Wrong But Increasing Symptoms Have Me Very Worried. Is There Anything I Can Do?

Daisies

This week, Richard M. Kline, Jr., MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question about breast reconstruction.

Question: I have pain on the side of my breast where an implant was attached at reconstruction surgery in 1987. It has always hurt but recently has become much worse. Inflammation increases with sinus and allergy problems.

The implants are still soft so my recent visit to a plastic surgeon was uneventful. As I am 75 years old, they would not remove them. MRIs have shown they are not leaking. The pain keeps me on edge thinking something is very wrong. What are my options?

Answer:  I’m sorry you are having problems so long after your surgery.

I don’t think you necessarily have to just accept your situation. You can have very bad, and painful scarring internally, especially with old implants, even if they are not ruptured. Additionally, if you are otherwise healthy, there is no reason you couldn’t have them removed, even at 75. I’m not saying that this would solve your problems (although it may), but don’t discount the option just because of your age. For what it’s worth, we have actually done DIEP flaps successfully on patients your age, and that is a much larger procedure than removing implants.

I would be happy to speak with you and discuss your situation further if you wish.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!

Ask the Doctor – Could Odd Pains In My Body Be The Consequence Of an Old Abdominal Flap Surgery Following A Halstead Radical Mastectomy?

Poppy in a feild

This week, James E. Craigie, MD, of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction answers your question.

Question:  In 1987, I had abdominal flap surgery following a Halstead radical mastectomy. I keep wondering what is NOW going on in my body! When I feel odd pains I wonder if it could be repercussions of that surgery so long ago.

Answer:  Thank you for your question. If you had your surgery in 1987 and you had reconstruction using your abdominal tissue then I will assume that you had a Tram procedure. That surgery relies on partially removing the muscle from the abdominal wall. Not having the muscle in place can cause problems later in life. People can have pain or bulging of the tummy and even hernias. Of course not all patients have those problems. If your problems are in the tummy area then that is a possibility. If your problems are in the area of your breast or mastectomy then you should consider seeing a breast surgeon that specializes in doing mastectomies to make sure all is well with regard to your breast area. You could also see the doctor who follows you regarding your breast cancer history. Scaring from a “Halstead” mastectomy especially after radiation could cause aches and pains later in life. Regardless of what it might be you should definitely be seen by your doctor so they could do a complete evaluation of your symptoms. After an evaluation they could make more specific recommendations. I hope his information helps. Let me know if you have further questions.

Have a question about breast reconstruction or post-surgical you’d like answered from our surgical team? Just ask!