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Updated: June 6, 2010 03:34 IST

“Great advancements made in breast reconstruction ”

Ramya Kannan
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Venkat V. Ramakrishnan
Venkat V. Ramakrishnan

An expert in breast reconstruction in post-cancerous breast removal, Venkat V. Ramakrishnan explains how much this procedure can help women. “Removal of the breast is a huge blow to feminity. Every woman who has had a breast removed must be offered the possibility of reconstruction,” he tells Ramya Kannan. A consultant Plastic and Cosmetic surgeon in Essex, United Kingdom, Dr. Venkat was in Chennai, and at the meeting of the Royal College of Surgeons in Bangalore recently, to share his expertise.

“In the last fifty years, there have been great advancements in breast reconstruction techniques. As breast cancers are being detected early enough to be ‘cured,' women live longer and would like to get to normal as soon as possible,” Dr. Venkat says. His passion for micro surgery is obvious in the excitement in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.

The fact is that 10 per cent of women in any population will get breast cancer. And for those with the BRACA 1 and 2 genes, there is almost a 100 per cent certainty that they will land up with breast cancer. In fact, there are women in Britain who come to the clinic to undergo the gene test, and if they test positive, even ask for removal of breasts in order to avoid cancer.

“Of course, this is only a small group. The presence of the BRACA genes is so strong an indicator of cancer that we do breast removal and since these women are really young, also offer reconstruction,” he says. Reconstruction implies today that a specialist surgeon can build a live breast (unlike silicon implants) using the patient's own tissue, and a blood vessel. “Now we can make breasts look almost as good as normal and have also recorded long-lasting results,” Dr. Venkat adds.

While Americans started reconstruction many years ago, Dr. Venkat says his programme in the UK began in 2002 with 22 surgeries. A manifold increase has resulted in about 340 surgeries last year. In India, he says, clinicians have recognised that reconstruction is the next step, but surprisingly, there is insufficient patient demand. In fact, there are instances when patients reject outright the idea that they could have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. Earlier, Dr. Venkat explains, the fear was that it would hide the cancer. “But local control is very good and we are more confident of doing breast reconstruction surgery now.”

“There is no reason why it should not be offered here (in India) as well. The psychological impact of breast reconstruction on a woman who has had mastectomy is immense,” he says, adding though that the costs may be high, as people in India have to pay out of pocket for healthcare. While in India, breast reconstruction is considered as “cosmetic” surgery, in the UK and US, it is considered as part of the treatment of cancer, and therefore costs are covered.

The technique itself involves removing tissues from the patient and finding the fine blood vessel that would make the breast ‘live.'

More In: Chennai | Health | Sci-Tech

i do not agree with Nandini wherein she mentions that Indian women are not bothered about superficial beauty, i totally disagree. I feel it is just the other way round. In fact wearing western dresses is easier using prosthesis but it is difficult to wear and feel comfortable with Indian dresses that way, especially blouses with saris. Reconstruction may be costly but the amount of comfort and confidence that it gives is tremendous. It is not only about expenses, it also involves individual decision making, that is lacking highly in our women. We Indians may waste millions on jewelery that remains in bank lockers forever, but we cannot spend on our health.

from:  RITA BANIK
Posted on: Mar 2, 2012 at 12:36 IST

Dr. Venkat seems blowing up the issue out of proportion. There is a 60 % chance for people aged upto 90 to contract the cancer if they inherited a BRCA1 or BRCA2 type gene.

Source : http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA

from:  Praveen Viswanath
Posted on: Jun 8, 2010 at 10:29 IST

It is not "BRACA", but just "BRCA", which are also known as tumor suppressors.

from:  Dr. V. Subramanian
Posted on: Jun 6, 2010 at 20:38 IST

We are really happy to have good plastic surgeons in Chennai. I did couple of surgery's to my son (Cleft & Palatte) from a great Surgeon called Dr.Venkataswany in Malar.
May God give long life to these professionals and let them serve the mankind.

from:  S.R.Nawaz
Posted on: Jun 6, 2010 at 18:47 IST

Dr. Venkat misses the point. He doesn't seem to realize that unlike in Western countries, in India women are not obsessed with superficial beauty based only on appearance. That is why patient demand is low. Also saris/salwar kameez are more comfortable than tight blouses or bikinis once you've had a breast removed. Rather than acquire yet another unnecessary high-tech intervention, this is a perfect case where Indian women might have something to offer their Western sisters.

from:  Nandini
Posted on: Jun 6, 2010 at 16:52 IST

In Westerners of the Caucasian race plastic surgery does nor result in pigmented visible scars.In people of color any kind of trauma to the skin produces visible scars that can become secondary keloids.So special skills are needed to reduce scarring in non-caucasin races.This result is obvious looking at Hollywood stars with multiple facelifts and other antiaging surgery.I hope one day antiscarring medicines are able to reduce pigmented scars.

from:  mohan vaidy
Posted on: Jun 6, 2010 at 14:50 IST
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