Breast Cancer and Chest Reconstruction Top Surgery

For some trans and nonbinary people, chest reconstruction top surgery can be an important surgical procedure.  Chest reconstruction top surgery can eliminate chest tissue, which may help some people  live more comfortably. Though chest reconstruction top surgery significantly reduces your risk of developing breast cancer, there will still be some breast tissue that remains in the chest wall after surgery. For this reason, you should ideally still routinely check for breast cancer with your primary care physician.

Continuing Self-Breast/Chest Examinations

Recent studies have devalued the usefulness of self-breast/chest examinations, but it’s still important that you know the geography of your upper body before and after chest reconstruction top surgery. Monthly chest examinations can help you identify any substantial changes that may occur over time.

When examining your chest, you should look for any changes in chest tissue, including changes in feeling, size, skin or tissue texture, or appearance. If you find any significant changes, contact your primary care physician.

The Importance of Regular Breast Cancer Screenings

Even though your risk of breast cancer is significantly diminished following chest reconstruction top surgery (formerly called FTM/N top surgery), annual clinical exams are still recommended for people 50 years of age and older. It is important to note that traditional mammography may not be possible following chest reconstruction  top surgery due to a lack of tissue.

The presence of scar tissue from chest reconstruction top surgery may also make breast cancer detection more difficult. A clinical screening with a breast cancer specialist or imaging via MRI may be necessary to successfully screen for breast cancer if you and your primary care physician feel that you are high risk enough to warrant that screening.

Family History of Breast Cancer

If you are at a high risk of breast cancer due to family history, the American Cancer Society recommends annual check-ups starting at the age of 30. High risk is defined as those with a greater than 20% lifetime risk. This statistic includes those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, as well as those who haven’t been tested but have a child, sibling, or parent with an identified BRCA mutation.

Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer

While there are not many things that can greatly influence your risk of breast cancer, there are some lifestyle changes which might have a minor impact on breast cancer risk:

  • Research has shown that regular exercise can boost your immune system.. As little as thirty minutes of exercise, three times per week, can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
  • Cigarette smoking is a contributing factor to many types of cancer, including breast cancer. Second hand smoke can also increase your risk of breast cancer. Regular smoking has also been directly linked to lung and heart disease. Quitting smoking now can reduce the risk for many types of cancer and is a prerequisite for having top surgery.
  • Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer. Moderation is key when it comes to consuming wine, beer, or mixed drinks. More than one drink per day has been shown to be a significant risk factor for breast cancer.