Dealing with a diagnosis of cancer can be devastating for patients and their families. In particular, breast cancer raises many challenging questions not only of disease and treatment but also the psychosocial implications of treatments that may profoundly alter a woman's appearance and sense of self. Your sister should ask any and all of her questions of the various oncologists who are treating her, particularly the surgeon
as he or she will help direct the treatments and options for reconstruction. Your support in dealing with these questions is also likely to be very helpful.
Overall, breast cancer is typically treated first with surgery (either lumpectomy or a mastectomy) and then with radiation or radiation and chemotherapy. Reconstruction options typically begin at the time of consultation with the surgeon. Some tumors are so large that a mastectomy is the only options, but in many cases a less aggressive surgical option is possible. This depends on the size/location of the tumor; the size of the patient's breast tissue; and patient preference. If breast-preserving surgery is not an option, then reconstruction options can often be incorporated into the initial surgery. In many cases the surgical oncologist
will conclude his or her part of the procedure and then a plastic surgeon
will come into the OR and begin reconstruction. Reconstruction can also take place after the initial surgery.
Again, your sister should discuss further with her doctor.