Breast Cancer Survivors – Advances in Breast Reconstruction

Women who have breast cancer and have been through a mastectomy know how difficult it is to look in the mirror and see themselves in a different light. Even after the brutal rounds of chemotherapy and its associated side effects like weight loss, hair loss, and severe nausea, it seems one really, truly can’t prepare for the loss of a breast – or two. Luckily, in addition to the current procedures available for breast reconstruction, scientists have currently made huge advances in a new procedure which reattaches blood vessels and uses the patient’s own skin.

This method is currently only offered as a final resort for individuals who are not able to receive traditional breast reconstruction, or who wish to use autologous tissue, which is their own body’s skin tissue. The procedure is performed by removing a series of tissue flaps from another part of the patient’s body (called perforator flaps), and these flaps are then attached to the mastectomy site. A couple of blood vessels are then connected along the inner flap, and this is how the skin stays alive. For the technique, no muscle tissue is needed because only skin and fat is required. If the surgeon discovers that the patient has a longer blood vessel than average, they could choose to have it line the entire flap instead of using various smaller ones.
The best candidates for this surgery, because of its dependence on a patient’s own skin, are those who have medium to large breasts, have extra fat on their buttocks or stomach, prefer to use their own skin and might benefit from weight loss because of the stomach area being tightened by skin removal.
Some of the benefits from having this surgery done are that the patient will feel better both psychologically and emotionally, their self-esteem will be better and they will benefit from a more comfortable body image, allowing them to fit in without feeling “different.”   

On the other hand, this procedure tends to be longer than other breast reconstruction methods; a typical surgery can take possibly between four to six hours per breast, and chances are high that two surgeons will be working on you. This means quite long period of time that you must be kept under anesthesia. After the surgery, the follow-up visits can take up to four weeks or longer, and the patient has a greater risk of getting an infection if proper care is not received.   

The traditional methods of breast reconstruction include the use of breast implants. With breast implants, your choices include saline or silicone injections almost weekly to gradually increase the size and breast prostheses. Because of the complexity and length of the blood vessel surgery, very few breast cancer clinics offer this option. It is up to you and your doctor to figure out which method you think will work best, and if any of these surgeries will provide a benefit that outweighs the risk of allowing you to see yourself in the mirror without feeling disfigured or incomplete, and get you on track to resuming your life after breast cancer. 

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Leave a Comment

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.