Breast cancer survivors often find themselves asking, “What’s next?” after successfully battling the disease. For those who have undergone or are considering mastectomy, one option to reclaim their bodies is breast reconstruction. While breast implants are a common method, there are also alternatives that involve reconstruction without the use of implants, such as the DIEP flap procedure. ASPS Member Surgeons Mary Lester, MD, and Rozbeh Torabi, MD, shed light on the benefits of DIEP flaps and autologous tissue transfers in empowering breast cancer survivors.
The DIEP flap procedure involves using the patient’s own tissues from different areas of the body to reconstruct the breast. Typically, abdominal tissues that are often removed during an abdominoplasty are used. The tissue flap is then transferred to the chest, and the blood vessels are reconnected through anastomosis. Other methods of autologous tissue transfer utilize tissues from the inner thigh or shoulder. The choice of tissue depends on the patient’s body shape and overall health.
In the journey of breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors, empathy and empowerment play a crucial role in the surgeon-patient relationship. The goal of reconstruction is to help patients regain confidence and put cancer behind them. Surgeons work closely with patients to understand their desires and tailor the procedure accordingly. However, there are cases where reconstruction needs to be postponed if further cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation, are required. In such situations, surgeons prioritize cancer treatment before proceeding with reconstruction.
To provide patients with more time and options to consider reconstructive choices, some surgeons now perform mastectomy first and place a tissue expander. This allows patients to have a breather and make decisions without feeling overwhelmed by multiple appointments. Ultimately, these procedures are immensely rewarding for plastic surgeons specializing in breast reconstruction, as they help patients move on with their lives and leave the cancer behind.
Plastic surgeons play a vital role in helping breast cancer survivors reclaim their bodies and move forward. The ability to improve appearance and restore confidence is a privilege for these surgeons. They have the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of patients who have faced challenging times. Knowing all the available options for breast reconstruction is an important part of the healing journey for those who choose this path. Breast cancer survivors deserve to feel empowered and supported as they navigate the next steps in their lives.