Most women diagnosed with breast cancer undergo mastectomy or removal of the breast as part of the treatment. While plastic surgery can help rebuild the breast, many patients find it difficult to make the decision to have additional surgery. They also worry about recovery after breast reconstruction surgery and how it would affect their lifestyle. However, technological advancements have opened up new possibilities and are allowing plastic surgeons to help breast cancer patients rebuild their bodies, their self-respect, and their lives.
Implants were once the only option that was available to reconstruct the breasts. They are still popular, but women have more options now and surgeons recreate the breast mound using the patient’s own tissue. Compared to implants, this method avoids risk of infection and longevity issues. More than this, the use of autologous tissue offers a more personalized solution with a natural look and feel. A report published by ASAPS quotes one plastic surgeon as saying,
"So much of what we do is building back the person after what is a very disfiguring cancer… When we reconstruct, especially with personal tissue, it gives that sense of self".
There are many types of autologous breast reconstruction methods. These use tissues or a flap of skin, fat, and sometimes muscle from another area of the body to reconstruct the breast. The flap is usually taken from the abdomen, the back, buttocks, or inner thighs. One of the most popular methods is DIEP flap. The DIEP or deep inferior epigastric perforator artery runs through the abdomen. In a DIEP flap, fat, skin, and blood vessels are removed from the abdominal wall and transferred to the chest to rebuild your breast. As no muscle is touched, patients usually recover more quickly. Moreover, this method preserves abdominal strength as no muscle is used. This method is also popular among women undergoing radiation therapy.
Today, even non-cancer patients who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are going in for breast reconstruction surgery to lower their risk of breast cancer as much as possible.
All women should know that early detection offers the best chance of successful treatment. Women should not forget to do a monthly breast self-exam. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends timely screening. In your 20s and 30s, have a clinical breast exam once every 3 years, and have one every year in your 40s, along with mammogram every 2 years. Getting both these tests yearly is advisable when you reach your 50s.