Breast cancer survivors often face the question of what comes next after conquering the disease. For many women who have undergone or are considering mastectomy, the desire to reclaim their bodies is a significant consideration. One option for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is the use of breast implants, but there are alternatives available that do not involve implants. One such method is the DIEP flap, which utilizes the patient’s own tissue for reconstruction.
The DIEP flap, or deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap, is a commonly used autologous tissue transfer technique. This procedure involves taking tissues from different parts of the patient’s body, typically the abdominal area, and using them to reconstruct the breast. The tissue is meticulously removed and then transferred to the chest, where the blood vessels are reconnected through anastomosis.
In addition to the DIEP flap, there are other methods of autologous tissue transfer that utilize tissues from different parts of the body. The inner thigh is often used as a second choice, known as a PAP or TUG flap, particularly for women who are pear-shaped or have undergone a tummy tuck. The shoulder area can also provide viable tissue for reconstruction, especially for older patients or those with health concerns.
When considering breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors, the focus is on empathy and empowerment. The goal is to help patients regain confidence in their appearance and move forward from the cancer experience. Surgeons work closely with patients to understand their desires and tailor the reconstruction accordingly. This may involve additional procedures such as liposuction or the use of implants, depending on the patient’s goals.
However, there are instances where reconstruction may need to be postponed due to the need for further cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. In such cases, the priority is to treat and prevent cancer before proceeding with reconstruction. Nonetheless, there are options to begin the reconstruction process during the mastectomy, allowing patients more time to consider their choices.
For plastic surgeons specializing in breast reconstruction, these procedures can be incredibly rewarding. The relationships formed with patients during the reconstruction journey are meaningful, even if they may come to an end once the patients no longer need further treatment. The ability to help patients move on and regain a sense of normalcy is one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job for many surgeons.
Plastic surgeons play a vital role in helping breast cancer survivors reclaim their bodies and move forward after mastectomy. The ability to offer options and make a positive difference in the lives of patients is a privilege that many surgeons appreciate. Breast reconstruction is not just about physical restoration; it is about enabling survivors to overcome the disease and embrace the next chapter of their lives.