Breast Reconstruction: A Challenge for Survivors

For breast-cancer survivors who either had mastectomies without reconstruction or large lumpectomies that resulted in asymmetry, the option for reconstruction still remains an open door for you--whether  your surgery was done last month or 30 years ago.

And, perhaps best of all, courtesy of a law passed in 1998, your health insurance is required to cover your reconstruction.

Consult with a reconstruction expert

What I'm saying here is that if you have been unhappy with your silhouette, or are frustrated by wearing a breast prosthesis, please consider getting a consultation with a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstruction of the breast. And discuss all your options during this session--you might be surprised at how many different choices are available to women today.

Miracle procedures that can shape and create new breasts

Today, we’ve gone well beyond implant reconstruction, where the surgeon uses some of your own tissue (called autologous tissue) from another place on your body to create a more natural look and feel of the reconstructed breast. Something called oncoplastic surgery, which combines removal of the cancerous tumor with cosmetic breast reduction in  a single surgical procedure, can also be done to provide symmetry that was lost as a result of breast-cancer surgery.

Nowadays, wonder-working surgeons can  perform microvascular surgeries that collect quantities of

  • tummy fat using the DIEP flap procedure (DIEP = deep inferior epigastric perforator )
  • buttocks fat using the S-GAP flap procedure (S-GAP = superior gluteal artery perforator)
  • inner-thigh fat using the TUG flap procedure (TUG = transverse upper gracilis)

Each of these 3 procedures allow surgeons to leave all the muscles behind, untouched and unharmed, that were attached to the fat.

Fat in the lower abdomen, for example--complete with the tiny blood vessels needed to feed and sustain it--is cut away from the abdominal muscles and then transplanted where it's needed up on your chest, so that a breast can be reconstructed without damaging or weakening any of the abdominal muscles. Incredible!

(Note: Be sure, however, to avoid either of the tissue-flap procedures that do indeed cause harm to muscle: the TRAM flap and the latissmus dorsi flap.)

One of the best things I ever did

A full 10 years after having my second mastectomy, I myself chose to have DIEP flaps done on both sides, and I’d do them again in a heartbeat!

To learn more about reconstruction, visit the Hopkins Breast Center's website, scroll down to the bottom of the page, click on "Featured Videos" (as well as on "More Videos"), and watch animations of some of these procedures, as well as hear an interview in which I'm talking about reconstruction options available today.

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