Rise in number breast of reconstruction surgeries: Women dealing with cancer need not ‘lose’ their breast

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Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas
| Pune |
Updated: August 19, 2017 4:34 am


Nikisha Oswal (centre) who battled breast cancer now teaches kids how to dance

At 23, Nikisha Oswal was engaged to be married and also looking forward to a promising career as a fashion designer. Till breast cancer struck, with at least two doctors — one in Pune and the other from Mumbai — advising removal of a breast. “I was so confused. I didn’t understand much about cancer but losing a breast played heavily on my mind,” Nikisha recalled.

The youngster went through chemotherapy to reduce the lump in her breast and instead of a mastectomy (removal of breast) underwent an oncoplastic breast surgery. Here, the breast is conserved or reconstructed. “It all started with a small lump in my right breast. My hand started hurting and after a check, I was detected with HER2 breast cancer a year ago,” says this former student of Wadia college. “My fiancé broke up with me and all of a sudden life came to a standstill,” she said.

Nikisha soon mustered the courage to tackle the disease. “It was Dr C B Koppiker, breast oncoplastic surgeon, who allayed most of my fears and helped me recover. Importantly, I could conserve my breast,” Nikisha, who now teaches small kids how to dance, said. Like Nikisha, a 30-year-old woman who preferred anonymity, spoke about how she dealt with breast cancer. She too had been advised removal of her breast. “I had just stopped breastfeeding my child and it was a such a shock when one of the doctors said I would have to remove my breast,” she recalled. Dr Koppiker not only operated upon the tumour, the surgical technique was used in such a way that despite the reduction of one breast, the other one was also similarly reconstructed to present an aesthetic look, she said.

At 56, a teacher at an international school in the city was alarmed when she was detected with cancer. “I was eating well, exercising and really felt depressed that I would ‘lose’ my breasts. But I need not have worried as my breasts were aesthetically replaced despite a double mastectomy,” the teacher said on the condition of anonymity.

“With the increase in the incidence of breast cancer, there is a common misconception that treatment means removal of the breast. Nearly 80 per cent of breast cancer patients in the country undergo mastectomy while the remaining undergo breast conservation surgeries with poor cosmetic results,” Dr C B Koppiker, who heads Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, told The Indian Express. However, in the last three years, the oncologist has performed as many as 250 oncoplastic breast surgeries and helped women conserve their breast.

“Mutilating surgeries often lead to loss of self-esteem and depression among women which has been linked to negative impact on the treatment outcome. There is a paucity of trained breast surgeons in the country and at times women are unable to avail of the benefits of such surgeries,” Koppiker, who has set up an international school of oncoplastic surgery in the city, said. While surgeons have been trained in the last three years, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission’s Orchids Breast Health Clinic has tied up with the University of East Anglia, UK, and launched a three-year Masters in Breast Oncoplasty Programme in July this year. “Our first cohort has students from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia and the faculty will include experts from the UK, the US and India,” Koppiker added.

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