Is the Breast Cancer Vaccine Right for You?

Is the breast cancer vaccine right for you?

Medicine is constantly advancing. That is both wonderful and hard to keep track of at the same time. One of the ways medicine is improving is through the development of vaccines to prevent us from ever having to deal with some of the worst diseases.

In the last few decades, vaccines have been developed to prevent cancer. The HPV Vaccine can prevent cervical and oropharyngeal cancers, and the Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent liver cancer from developing.

But what about a breast cancer vaccine? There have been several stories in the news recently about breast cancer vaccines being available soon. If you’re at high risk for developing breast cancer, you’re probably wondering if the new breast cancer vaccine is right for you. Let’s dig deeper.

How Does the Breast Cancer Vaccine Work?

Cancer is a tricky disease to treat because it is caused by your own cells. So, methods to fight off foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses won’t work. The breast cancer vaccine works by training your body to recognize specific markers on cancer cells that aren’t present in your normal healthy cells.

Right now, there are two main vaccine targets in clinical trials:

Breast Cancer Vaccine Targets

HER2 Protein

Associated with aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer

alpha-lactalbumin

Found only in women who are currently lactating or women who have aggressive and difficult-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer

While both of these vaccines show incredible promise, both are also years away from being available to women with a breast cancer diagnosis, let alone as a preventative measure.

Is the Breast Cancer Vaccine Right for Me?

That answer depends on several factors:

  • If you are someone at high risk for developing breast cancer due to genetic mutations (e.g., BRCA1/2) or a strong family history and are in your 30s or 40s:
    • The breast cancer vaccines in clinical trials won’t be available for at least five years.
    • That means if you are going to develop breast cancer, the vaccine probably won’t be ready in time to treat the disease.
    • Consider your other prevention and early detection options.
  • If you are someone at high risk for developing cancer but are in your early 20s or younger:
    • The vaccine might be worth waiting for.
    • Other options like monitoring or preventative surgery are still available for increased peace of mind.
  • If you are at low risk for developing breast cancer:
    • If the vaccine is approved in the future for the prevention of breast cancer, then it would be an option to lower your risk even further.
    • Until then, continue yearly screenings and self-exams for early detection, just in case.

What Are My Other Options?

The two main options right now for women with a high risk of developing breast cancer are continuous monitoring and prophylactic mastectomy.

Continuous monitoring involves frequent mammograms, ultrasounds, or other screening and diagnostic testing, as your oncologist recommends.

Prophylactic mastectomy is a wide range of surgical and reconstruction procedures to eliminate your risk of developing breast cancer.

Many women choose preventative mastectomies to reduce their anxiety and free up their schedules from multiple doctor visits.

Prophylactic Mastectomy Techniques

Nipple Sparing Mastectomy for individuals at lower risk, the nipple and areola can be saved to create a more natural-looking breast reconstruction.

Skin Sparing Mastectomyalso called a “total mastectomy,” for those at higher risk, all breast tissue, including nipple and areola, are removed.

Contralateral Mastectomy If you have breast cancer in one breast, you have the option to remove the opposite healthy breast to prevent disease and improve reconstruction symmetry.

Aesthetic Flat Closure – instead of having a reconstruction, a plastic surgeon can suture your tissues, giving you an aesthetically pleasing flat scar.

Reconstruction Techniques

Implant Reconstructions – tissue expanders make room for silicone implants to recreate the breast mound.

  • Autologous Fat Grafting –  an adjunct procedure that uses fat from somewhere on your body (typically stomach or thigh) to create a smoother contour and full upper pole around implants.

Autologous Flap Reconstructionskin, fat, blood vessels, and sometimes muscle are taken from one area of your body to recreate the breast mound.

Areola Reconstruction and Nipple Reconstruction – 3D tattooing or surgical reconstruction can add the final aesthetic touches to your newly reconstructed breasts.

If you are considering a prophylactic mastectomy to reduce your breast cancer risk, consult with a plastic surgeon first to get the best care and outcomes you will love.

Understand Your Choices with Harris Plastic Surgery 

Consulting with a plastic surgeon before mastectomy provides you with several added benefits.

  • Expert care coordination
  • Psychological benefits of reduced stress and anxiety
  • Better aesthetic outcomes
  • One-stage reconstruction options

Harris Plastic Surgery has an impressive history of helping women make deeply personal decisions to promote breast health and happiness. Dr. Harris is a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive training in microsurgical breast reconstruction techniques. Joanne Parrinello is the face of the office and will work tirelessly to help you get the most from your insurance coverage and navigate surgical scheduling.

Choose Harris Plastic Surgery for your Breast Cancer Reconstruction Options

If you are considering the breast cancer vaccine vs. prophylactic mastectomy, we can help you decide.

Contact us online or by phone/text message if you have questions or are ready to schedule your consultation. 

Stephen U. Harris, MD FACS

Dr. Stephen U. Harris is a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and recognized expert in breast reduction and reconstruction surgeries, having performed thousands in his career. When it comes to patient care, his philosophy is that every surgery should improve his patient’s overall quality of life, not just their appearance. Dr. Harris stays up-to-date on all the latest advancements in breast augmentation, reconstruction, and reduction and is a recognized innovator in the field. In fact, he was the first surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital to offer primary prepectoral implant breast reconstruction, as well as secondary prepectoral revision surgery.

Dr. Harris also serves as Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, New York and is an active staff surgeon (and former Chief of Plastic Surgery) at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, New York.

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