MURRAY, Utah (Good Things Utah) – The American Cancer Society estimates nearly 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2023. That means women in the United States currently have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer is always a traumatic ordeal. Breast cancer can be even more stressful because of the visible nature of the disease. Whether it is the prospect of temporarily losing hair from chemotherapy, or the loss of a portion or all of one or both breasts, these are often significant symbols of a woman’s self-image.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that more than 75% of women do not know all the options and results available to them for reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy.

And only 19% of women understand that the timing of their treatment for breast cancer and the timing of their decision to undergo reconstruction greatly impacts their options and results.

In the face of a breast cancer diagnosis, most patients’ thoughts are a flurry of concerns about survival rates, treatments, appearance, and the overall impact on their life and loved ones.  

 It’s a conversation that Dr. Christopher Shale, Intermountain Healthcare plastic and reconstructive surgeon at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, has on a regular basis with patients.   

 “Whenever I see a cancer patient, I start with emphasizing the fact that the most important thing is dealing with the cancer,” Dr. Shale said. “After that, I tell them, they have options when it comes to reconstruction and educate the patients so they can make the decision that is best for them.”  

Tenisha Tucker, from South Ogden, decided to have preventive surgery when it was discovered last year that she had PALB2 gene mutation, which is a rare gene with an increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

In September 2022, Tucker had a double mastectomy. During her mastectomy surgery she opted to have reconstructive surgery at the same time. She did not want implants, and in fact cried, not realizing there were other options. Her doctors recommended the DIEP flap, using her own skin and fatty tissue to rebuild the breast.

She is cancer free, but has a cousin fighting stage 4 cancer. Her father, grandmother and great grandmother also all had breast cancer. Her grandmother tells her she wishes she had this same option she had.

“Cancer can take so much from us. Why not do preventive surgery,” said Tenisha Tucker. “Life is precious. Get screened. Take a blood test.”

Although there are many breast cancer patients who have no interest in reconstructive surgery, Dr. Shale said there are studies that show that for a significant percentage of women, having some sort of breast reconstruction is very beneficial to them emotionally.   

“The conversation usually starts with the general surgeon who performs the cancer surgery,” said Dr. Shale “But it’s important to know the options even before the cancer removal surgery because there are often cases where the reconstruction can take place at the same time.”

Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction using a patient’s own tissue is currently the gold standard for reconstruction.

  What is Microvascular Breast Reconstruction? 

Microvascular breast reconstruction uses the DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) method to restore the breast using a patient’s skin and fatty tissue. DIEP only takes the skin, fat, blood vessels, and sensory nerves.  

“This living tissue reconstruction done at Intermountain facilities, leaves the muscle,” said Dr. Shale. “With these DIEP or DIEP Flaps, abdominal wall complication rates drop down from 0 to 3 percent. So, it is a huge winner with our patients.” 

Microvascular breast reconstruction is offered by plastic surgeons at Intermountain Medical Center, Intermountain McKay-Dee, Intermountain LDS and Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.  

Intermountain Health Breast Reconstruction (BRA) Day Events

Wednesday, October 18, 2023
12 pm to 1 pm
Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital Pond (weather permitting)

Friday, October 20, 2023
11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital

Saturday, October 21, 2023
6:30 pm – 10 pm
Natural History Museum of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

The free BRA events will include music, balloons, food, and a bra decorating contest.

The events are designed for breast cancer patients, survivors, and family members to celebrate and meet with surgeons to learn more about the advances in breast reconstruction surgery and other treatment options.

“It’s triple the celebration this year!” said Dr. Shale “We get to celebrate our survivors, talk about options, education, and give the public a chance to get to know the whole Intermountain Health team of caregivers across the state. We are really looking forward to it.”

For more information on breast reconstruction visit here. 

Sponsored by Intermountain Health.