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St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference: Breast conservation following tumour surgery - new techniques, better outcomes

(Vienna, 16th March 2015) A feeling of self-worth. Femininity. Beauty. Breast conservation following cancer surgery is an important issue for many women, since a third of all those affected are at risk of losing their breast altogether. At the MedUni Vienna, work is constantly being carried out into the new and further development of methods used in the field of reduction plastic surgery and the complete reconstruction of the breast. As a result of this work, the breast can be preserved with good cosmetic results in up to 20 per cent of all breast cancer patients.

In Austria, around 5,200 women and around 90 men develop breast cancer every year. The first stage of treatment is usually the surgical removal of the tumour, followed by radiotherapy and treatment with medication. As well as the worry about getting better again, women are especially concerned about whether and how their breast can be preserved.

Breast conservation dependent on the size of tumour and breast volume
In around 15 to 20 per cent of all breast cancer patients, which equates to around 1,000 women a year in Austria, immediate repair should be considered following surgical removal of the tumour, depending on the size of the tumour and the breast itself. This repair comprises a set of specialist surgical procedures designed to eliminate breast deformities or to completely reconstruct the breast as a whole. In the field of tumour treatment, these procedures are grouped together under the term oncoplastic surgery. Florian Fitzal from the MedUni Vienna, member of the Vienna Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) and head of the breast health unit at the Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Schwestern in Linz, says: "Oncoplastic procedures are useful if the tumour takes up more than 25 per cent of the breast. If the breast is large enough, it can be restored as part of the tumour removal process using reduction plastic surgery techniques, i.e. by making it smaller. This aspect of breast cancer treatment is one that is very important to us."

Michael Gnant, Head of the University Department of Surgery at the MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital and Deputy Head of the Vienna Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC), adds: "Even if the breast needs to be removed in its entirety, we can often restore it again even during the cancer operation itself. It's important to do this, because this saves the patient from having to undergo a second procedure. For women, this treatment is tremendously important. This is why it is vital that, as a surgeon, you have good experience of the techniques needed. We were one of the first to use these techniques in our specialty and have already trained countless colleagues in them."

Vienna is the centre of breast cancer research
Ongoing and further training, but also breast cancer research, are therefore important issues for both experts. Says Michael Gnant: "In March 2015, Vienna is a veritable hotspot in terms of science's approach to breast cancer, but also further training in this field, since it is here that the 14th St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference is being held."

The St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference, which is taking place from 18.3. - 21.3.2015, is Europe's largest congress on breast cancer with around 5,000 delegates (http://www.oncoconferences.ch). Traditionally, as part of the conference, experts offer their opinions on a range of subjects. Practising doctors are then able to use these as quick and clear decision-making tools in their everyday clinical work. Gnant, who is co-chair of the event, adds: "The treatment of breast cancer is becoming increasingly more complex, more interdisciplinary and more difficult to understand. This is what makes respected experts' opinions so important. The research work into oncology that we carry out here and in organisations such as the ABCSG, the Austrian Breast & Colorectal Cancer Study Group, has enabled Vienna to become established as a type of Mecca for breast cancer research. The fact that we've been able to bring St. Gallen to Vienna is a clear indicator of this."

Oncoplastic surgery: experts for experts
On the 17th of March, the day before the St. Gallen Breast Cancer Conference, there is a further highlight in the field of oncoplastic surgery: Gnant and Fitzal are inviting colleagues from all over the world to the 2nd Vienna Breast Surgery Day at the MedUni Vienna. To mark this event, national and international experts such as the grande dame of breast surgery, Monica Morrow, head of the breast unit at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, will be sharing their knowledge with colleagues in the form of presentations and videos of surgery. Infos: www.ccc.ac.at/vbsd