Breast Cancer and FTM and FTN Chest Reconstruction Surgery

For some trans men and transmasculine non-binary and gender-expansive people, female-to-male (FTM) & female-to-non-binary (FTN) chest reconstruction surgery can be an extremely important surgical procedure as part of physical transition. FTM/N chest surgery eliminates the presence of chest tissue, which can help some folks to live more comfortably in their authentic gender identity. Though FTM/N chest 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 Examinations

Recent studies have devalued the usefulness of self-breast examinations, but it’s still important that you know the geography of your upper body before and after FTM/N chest surgery. Monthly chest examinations can help you identify 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 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 FTM/N chest reconstruction, 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 FTM/N top surgery due to a lack of breast tissue.

The presence of scar tissue from FTM/N 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, 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 for 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 and keep you at a healthy weight. As little as thirty minutes of exercise, three times per week, can reduce your risk of breast cancer.
  • Eating a nutritious, low-fat diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. A diet high in fat can increase your risk of breast cancer because fat triggers estrogen production which can fuel tumor growth.
  • 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 pre-requisite 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.