Lipofilling — fat injections that harvest and transfer living fat cells from one part of the body to another — has long been a controversial procedure when it comes to breast cancer patients. While it is an effective means of contouring the breasts after breast reconstructions and lumpectomies, since its introduction, many doctors have voiced concerns that injecting fat cells into an area where a tumor has previously resided could create a new environment for cancer to take hold again. A new study conducted by three European institutions, however, suggests that the potential danger is lower than experts might have feared. From 2000 to 2010, researchers at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, the Paris Breast Center in Paris, and the Leon Berard Centre in Lyon monitored 513 patients who had undergone reconstructive lipofilling after breast cancer surgery. The procedure was performed an average of about three years after the women’s initial surgery. Ultimately, researchers found that complication rates were quite low (less than three percent), and of those, few were serious. They also found that lipofilling had no affect upon radiologic follow-ups after breast cancer surgery.
What does this all mean? Well, most importantly, it suggests that lipofilling as a means of contouring the breasts to a more natural look after a breast reconstruction or lumpectomy is safer than expected. The consistently low complication rates reflected in the research are very encouraging, as is the fact that lipofilling doesn’t interfere with mammogram results. This study doesn’t prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that lipofilling is 100 percent safe, however, so more studies will have to be done before all controversy over lipofilling is put to rest. In the meantime, if it’s something you choose for yourself, make sure your lipofilling is performed by an expert, and that you strictly follow oncologic follow-up protocol afterward.