Reporting in the Archives of Surgery (September 2004), researchers found that women who undergo mastectomy for breast cancer also can have immediate breast reconstruction (IBR) at the time of surgery without delaying chemotherapy, if this treatment also is needed. The researchers noted, however, that this option is not without risks. Specifically, the risks include wound complications, which could delay chemotherapy, possibly jeopardizing the patient's chance for survival.

In the current study, the researchers analyzed data from 128 women with breast cancer (62 of whom underwent IBR and 66 of whom did not). The women had a total of 148 mastectomies at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif. The rate of wound complications (eg, infection and bleeding) was 22% in the IBR group, compared with 8% in the comparison group. Even with the increased rate of wound complications, IBR did not impede the start of chemotherapy. Of all the participants, only 2 patients in each group started chemotherapy later than 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. That time frame is when most physicians prefer to begin a course of treatment.