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Bringing Oncoplastics to Canadian Breast Cancer Patients

Barrie, ON - For many women diagnosed with breast cancer, breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) offers patients the opportunity to remove cancerous tissue while leaving as much of the breast as possible.

In most cases, the combination of breast conserving surgery and radiation therapy has been shown to be at least equivalent, or even superior, to mastectomy. Unfortunately, while the expectation of breast conserving surgery is that the aesthetic outcome is much better than mastectomy, a significant number of patients experience poor cosmetic outcomes that can require additional reconstructive surgery.

The recent emergence of oncoplastic surgery (also known as oncoplastics) has enabled surgeons to observe ideal oncologic principals of disease-free margins while delivering superior cosmetic results. In contrast to standard breast-conserving surgery, oncoplastics uses a combination of ablative surgery and plastic surgery to immediately remodel the remaining breast tissue to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing outcome. While oncoplastics has been linked to better psychosocial outcomes, improved quality of life, and lower rates of surgical complications than breast conserving surgery and mastectomy, Canada’s healthcare system has been fairly slow to adopt the technique when compared to the international community.

Dr. Renee Hanrahan, an oncological and reconstructive breast surgeon at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, Ontario, is a national expert on oncoplastics and has been instrumental in bringing the technique to surgeons across Canada. Recognizing the lack of oncoplastic training opportunities within Canada, Dr. Hanrahan along with a few dedicated colleagues, including Dr. Jeannie Richardson (Trillium Health Partners), Dr. Angel Arnout (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute), Dr. Muriel Brackstone (Western University), and Dr. Marianna Kapala (Trillium Health Partners) have established the Oncoplastic Partnership Workshop Series ( to bring teaching and research to the growing Canadian oncoplastics community.

To date, the workshops have been a great success, bringing together over 200 academic and community surgeons for supervised hands-on cadaveric dissections, didactic lectures, and case discussions. Dr. Hanrahan recognizes the impact that this emerging surgical alternative on women diagnosed with breast cancer.

As interest in the oncoplastics grows among both patients and providers, workshop leaders have authored an upcoming position statement in the journal Current Oncology, titled “A Position Statement on Defining and Standardizing an Oncoplastic Approach to Breast Conserving Surgery in Canada”.

“As a result of the workshop, education, and research, we have developed a network of surgeons that are now participating in oncoplastic surgery,” says Dr. Hanrahan.

“By participating in provincial rounds specific to oncoplastic surgery, our trainees are now presenting cases of their own and participating in educational discussion. The number of surgeons training to perform oncoplastic surgery is increasing, which means more access and options for patients. It is rewarding to know that patients are benefiting from this movement.”

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