New breast cancer surgery approach improves survivorship and leaves women looking and feeling whole

Sep. 27, 2018

Surgical oncologist Dr. Muriel Brackstone, Medical Director of the Breast Care Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, is co-founder of Canada’s first, hands-on oncoplastic surgery course. She is the keynote speaker at the Best in Breast Care Conference on Oct. 19 in London.

London Ontario – A London surgeon is leading a shift across Canada to new breast surgery techniques that are dramatically changing the outcome and quality of life for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

About 80 per cent of women with breast cancer undergo a lumpectomy – surgery in which only the tumor and some surrounding tissue is removed. While much less drastic than a mastectomy, a large lumpectomy often leaves women with a significantly distorted breast.

“What’s exciting is we can now perform surgery in a way that can not only reduce the risk of the cancer returning but also drastically improves the cosmetic outcome,” says surgical oncologist Dr. Muriel Brackstone, Medical Director of the Breast Care Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “Women are delighted. They are our some of our happiest patients. They look cosmetically better after their cancer operation than they did before, and their cancer is gone. They also tolerate the subsequent radiation better.”

It’s called oncoplastic surgery and it combines the latest plastic surgery techniques with breast surgical oncology. When a large lumpectomy is required, the remaining tissue is sculpted and molded to restore natural appearance. The technique includes a breast lift and reduction. The opposite breast may also be modified to create symmetry.

Dr. Brackstone is co-founder of the Oncoplastic Partnership Workshop, Canada’s first hands-on oncoplastic surgery course for practicing surgeons across the country. She is also Director of Western University’s Oncoplastic Breast Surgery Fellowship, one of two such fellowships in Canada that trains new surgeons in this technique. The innovative surgeon and researcher is the keynote speaker at St. Joseph’s Best in Breast Care Conference on Oct. 19, which is open to both clinicians and the public. (See below).

With improvements in breast imaging in recent years, pre-cancerous tissue in the vicinity of the cancer can now be more easily found, explains Dr. Brackstone. By removing those pre-cancerous lesions and the cancer, the risk of recurrence after radiation is low. The breast can be saved with good long-term outcomes, but it means a larger volume of the breast is removed.

“If we did that lumpectomy the way we used to it initially looks good but then the fluid in that space gets reabsorbed resulting in contour deformity.”

Oncoplastic surgery is a new way of thinking for breast surgeons, says Dr. Brackstone. The more complex cases require a team approach with plastic surgeons.

“As a surgeon you’re thinking within the context of the cancer and in three dimensions with the final cosmetic view in mind. Larger breasted women can lose up to 60 per cent of their breast and still have a beautiful, lifted reconstruction,” says Dr. Brackstone.

The purpose of the oncoplastic surgery workshop co-founded by Dr. Brackstone and four other Ontario surgeons is to provide surgeons with the skills they need and improve access to this enhanced care to patients no matter where they live.

“Along with good outcomes in survivorship, the new technique helps restore femininity and a sense of wholeness,” says Dr. Brackstone. “Women don’t need prosthetics and can avoid posture and self-esteem issues that often arise with a significant breast deformity.”

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Best in Breast Care Conference

What: Presented by the Breast Care Program of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, the Best in Breast Care Conference will feature the latest developments breast screening, diagnosis, treatment, reconstructive surgery, research, support, and survivorship. The full-day program is open to health professionals, students and trainees. The public is invited to lunch and the afternoon sessions, which will include the keynote address by Dr. Muriel Brackstone. Agenda, fees and registration is available on St. Joseph’s website.

When: Oct. 19 at Best Western Plus Stroneridge Inn & Conference Centre, 6675 Burtwistle Lane, London, ON

For more information, contact:

Dahlia Reich, Communication & Public Affairs
St. Joseph’s Health Care London,
(519) 646-6100 ext. 65294, pager 10117, Cell: 519 619-0971

About St. Joseph’s Health Care London

Renowned for compassionate care, St. Joseph’s Health Care London is a leading academic health care centre in Canada dedicated to helping people live to their fullest by minimizing the effects of injury, disease and disability through excellence in care, teaching and research. Through partnership with Lawson Health Research Institute and our collaborative engagement with other health care and academic partners, St. Joseph’s has become an international leader in the areas of: chronic disease management; medical imaging; specialized mental health care; rehabilitation and specialized geriatrics; and surgery. St. Joseph’s operates through a wide range of hospital, clinic and long-term and community based settings, including: St. Joseph’s Hospital; Parkwood Institute; Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care; and the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care. For more information, visit www.sjhc.london.on.ca.

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