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Advances in breast reconstruction surgery

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4Utah) – Women in the United States currently have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women. 

Whether you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and may be undergoing a mastectomy or removal or the breast tissue – talking to a plastic surgeon before you begin treatment is important. Your treatment plan can determine what type of reconstruction you’re able to have and the timing of surgery.

Breast reconstruction may include a breast implant, the use of your own tissue (flaps), or a combination of both. The type and timing of breast reconstruction should factor in other potential treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation) as well as your own body shape, life activities, other medical conditions and personal preferences.

 A team of Intermountain Healthcare physicians works with patients to determine when and what type of breast surgery works best for each individual, according to Dr. Brian Reuben, a surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction surgery at Intermountain Healthcare

Types of Breast Reconstruction – what options are available for breast reconstruction?

  • Implant only
  • Using your own body tissue only
  • Implant, combined with using your own body tissue

Which method of reconstruction is best for me?

This is determined by your body shape, past surgery, current health, treatment needs, and personal preference. Talk to your surgeon to discuss options, risks, and benefits.

How long is the reconstruction process?

Timeline will vary depending on how many surgeries need to be done and the need for other cancer treatment. Typical reconstruction process takes 6 months to 1 year.

What if my natural breast does not match my reconstructed breast?

The goal is to create a breast that is symmetrical with the remaining natural breast. Augmentation of both breasts may be necessary to achieve desired result.

Who pays?

In 1998, Congress passed the “Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act” which requires group health and individual insurance coverage for reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. Talk to your insurance or surgeon about your options.

What are the risks of breast reconstruction surgery? Does reconstruction change the risk of my cancer returning? Does it make cancer detection harder?

Risk of breast cancer recurrence depends on the stage of the disease, biological characteristics of the cancer and the additional breast cancer treatments. Reconstructive surgery has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer returning or make it harder to detect cancer if it does return.

What if I may need radiation?

You may want to delay breast reconstruction until you are finished with radiation therapy. Radiation may damage your reconstruction and affect your final cosmetic result.

What if I may need chemotherapy?

Breast reconstruction should not delay chemotherapy treatments. Usually your medical oncologist will wait until you have healed from your mastectomy and reconstruction before starting chemotherapy. Your surgeon and oncologist can discuss your specific treatment plan.

What is DIEP breast reconstruction?

DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap reconstruction restores the breast using a patient’s skin and fatty tissue from the lower abdomen below the belly button. The procedure results in a “tummy tuck” as well.

The DIEP flap procedure is ideal for women with an active lifestyle as well as for those who have undergone double mastectomy who don’t want implant-based reconstruction.

DIEP flap breast reconstruction is popular because it doesn’t move or cut muscle (which means shorter recovery time).

Sensory nerve reconstruction can be performed with the DIEP flap to restore sensation after mastectomy.

The reconstructed breast is permanent. A patient’s breast grows/shrinks with them. If the patient gains weight, their breasts change accordingly. Same thing if they lose weight/diet, their breasts change naturally with their body.

Within 5-6 weeks most patients are getting back to their normal daily routines with few, if any, restrictions.

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