Plastic surgeons make great strides in breast reconstruction

A group of plastic surgeons at The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) wants to get the message out to patients, family doctors and general surgeons that breast reconstruction is an integral part of breast cancer treatment.

Drs. Timothy Sproule, Sandra Voice, Narayanan Nandagopal and Sarah Wong offer gold standard technologies and techniques for women facing reconstructive surgery following breast cancer treatments. As a team, they provide microvascular reconstruction on a regular basis, something that is more typically found in university centres.

“Breast reconstruction is not a luxury; it’s part of the treatment. It’s an option that’s readily available and can offer high quality results,” explains Dr. Sproule. And in Ontario, breast reconstruction after breast cancer treatment is covered by OHIP. “Reconstruction has reached the point where apart from a scar, the breasts can look like the real thing,” says Dr. Voice. “The reconstructions we did 30 years ago are a far cry from what we’re able to do now, thanks to new technologies and techniques.”

TSH boasts the largest number of plastic surgeons on staff of any hospital in Canada, and several of those plastic surgeons have specific expertise in breast reconstruction. It also has the capability to detect and treat breast cancer before reconstruction. “Patients and their family doctors may not be aware that some community hospitals like TSH have the capacity to perform breast cancer surgery and breast reconstruction, and do it with the same quality and results as the big teaching hospitals,” says Dr. Sproule.

If more patients and their doctors knew this, it could help cut wait times. “Family doctors are sending their patients downtown for their treatment when it would be preferable for patients to be closer to home,” Dr. Voice says. “That’s especially true with Scarborough’s multicultural population, where it might be very intimidating for new immigrants to go downtown when we have the resources right in their own neighbourhood.”

Another advantage for patients at TSH is that there is the option of having immediate reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. “The possibility of having a completely reconstructed breast when you go home is an exciting prospect,” says Dr. Nandagopal. “They don’t have to go home with the feeling of having had an amputation, so to speak. It doesn’t need to be relegated to a time in the future.”

TSH recently added Dr. Sarah Wong to the team. After spending a year at MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas, Dr. Wong is qualified in the most recent advances in breast reconstruction. “We are at the cutting edge here at TSH. There are new technologies in the operating room which make the surgery more efficient, and we are already applying them in practice,” Dr. Wong says. “This hospital is very supportive in finding the best and newest approaches to help our patients complete their breast reconstruction.”

Some of those new techniques include breast tissue expansion, immediate reconstruction using microsurgical flap transfers and delayed tissue expansion. “This is a very dynamic team, combining many years of experience with the ability to adapt to new challenges and techniques,” Dr. Wong says.

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