Being diagnosed with breast cancer can feel like walking through a spider web—you want it off immediately, and thus it’s tempting to flail about trying to shake it off. It’s an analogy we once heard from one of our patients, and it couldn’t be more spot on. Receiving the bad news of breast cancer takes a toll on a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. This results in feelings of anxiety and desperation to put an end to the disease. Understanding that this is an overwhelming time for anyone diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen have made it a goal to help women through this time, offering the information and guidance they need to not only beat cancer, but to thrive and enjoy life once the battle is won. As a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Hunsicker has been a pioneer in reconstructive breast surgery for more than a decade. Throughout this time, she has refined the process to help give women their bodies and their lives back after breast cancer surgery. Whether you have had or are preparing for a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or other breast cancer treatment, Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen will work closely with you to develop a personalized breast reconstruction plan designed to restore your figure and renew your self-confidence. To help women get through the road between diagnosis and breast cancer surgery, Dr. Hunsicker has developed a process with an emphasis on a happy and healthy life after breast cancer.
Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen starts by sending their patients to physical therapy before their breast cancer surgery. This helps establish a baseline for strength and range of motion and will allow patients to start physical therapy (about three weeks post-op) with a goal in mind. Having a set baseline helps motivate patients so they are able to return to full health as quickly as possible. Effective physical therapy can help you feel like your old self again and adjust to the changes in your figure. Click here for additional information on breast cancer rehabilitation at Oncology Rehab.
Acupuncture has proven to be effective during cancer treatment. Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen recommend acupuncture to help control pain, swelling, or discomfort caused by surgery or cancer treatment. Acupuncture treatments have also shown to be effective in reducing vomiting from chemotherapy treatments as well as reducing the need for narcotic use and other medications, which can cause side effects such as confusion, behavioral changes, nausea and constipation.
Food is medicine. All of our patients are given the opportunity to have nutritional counseling in preparation for their surgery. We also recommend patients drink our Revalla green smoothie for the weeks prior to and after their surgery—packed with all the ingredients you need for a strong immune system and welcome energy boost.
Emotional Counseling With Spousal And Family Support
The emotional component associated with breast cancer cannot be underestimated. The disease threatens to compromise a woman’s femininity and self-image in addition to her physical health. Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen believe that it is extremely important to acknowledge these emotional concerns and address the fear and stress tied to breast cancer—not only for the patient, but for her family and support system as well.
What Breast Reconstruction Options are Recommended After a Mastectomy?
Dr. Hunsicker and Dr. Nguyen are leaders in the area of reconstructive breast surgery. During your consultation, you may explore a number of different surgical options. The approach that is most appropriate for you will be determined based on various details in your case, such as the extent of your mastectomy or lumpectomy. In general, breast reconstruction is either implant-based or autologous. The latter involves the use of your own tissue to recreate a natural breast mound.
Implant-based breast reconstruction involves the placement of a saline or silicone breast implant beneath your skin or muscle. When possible, breast implants are placed into a pocket of tissue beneath the pectoralis muscle. This position looks more natural and is unlikely to cause ripples in the skin. To receive breast implants, you may first need to have tissue expanders placed. This gradually stretches the skin and connective tissue so a suitable breast implant size can be inserted.
Autologous breast reconstruction tends to be a more complex process. There are a number of techniques possible, each of which involves tissue harvesting from a different part of the body. To achieve the best result, the doctor may take skin or fat from elsewhere to make a new breast mound. Tissue flaps may be created from skin transplanted from the abdomen, inner thigh, buttock back, or other areas. The doctor grafts and transplants tissue using microsurgical techniques that support the integration of tissue with a healthy blood supply, reducing the risk of tissue death. There are several types of flap surgery that may be explored. These include:
- Deep inferior epigastric artery perforator (DIEP) flap.
- “Stacked” DIEP flap reconstruction.
- Superficial inferior epigastric artery (SIEA) flap.
- Medial thigh-based flaps (TUG, VUG, DUG, PAP).
- Buttock-based flaps (SGAP and IGAP).
- Thoracodorsal artery perforator (TAP) flap.
- Latissimus dorsi (LD) flap.
Your doctor will discuss each procedure that may be appropriate for your case.
Do I Have to Have Breast Reconstruction?
Having breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy is a completely personal decision. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to this aspect of overcoming the physical and emotional toll of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment. You may benefit from talking to other women who have been through this process, to a therapist, and to supportive friends and family who will stand beside you as you determine the best path forward for yourself. Some women choose not to have breast reconstruction and wear a prosthesis to give them a natural shape. Some women choose not to wear a prosthesis and to simply live in their body as it is after breast cancer treatment. Again, there is no perfect answer for every woman. Here, we provide you with the information you will need to determine which path feels most aligned for you.
How Long Does a Breast Reconstruction Process Take?
The breast reconstruction process is rarely straightforward. Your surgeon will take several details into account when planning the various aspects of your surgery, including how to prepare and what will be needed to help you recover as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your journey may include weeks or months that focus on tissue expansion before breast augmentation. You'll participate in physical therapy that will enable you to regain mobility quickly, and may require multiple procedures that culminate in your ideal outcome. Throughout your breast reconstruction process, you can expect clear, consistent communication from your surgeon and our team.
What are the Risks Involved with Having a Breast Reconstruction Procedure?
Surgical risks exist across all types of surgery. During your consultation, you can expect your doctor to discuss intra-operative and post-operative breast reconstruction risks and to also answer questions you may have about your process. Some of the most common risks breast reconstruction patients face include reaction to anesthesia, infection, excessive bleeding, poor wound healing, blood clots, discomfort, tissue death, swelling, bruising, fluid build-up in the surgical area, and post-surgical fatigue. With proper care, all of these risks can be managed. Breast reconstruction also carries cosmetic risks. The most common include noticeable scarring, asymmetry, ripples, and dimples in the skin. If you receive breast implants, there is a risk of rupture and capsular contracture, both of which can be corrected with additional surgery.
Will Chemotherapy Delay My Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
No. It used to be common practice to wait until all breast cancer treatments were complete before beginning the reconstruction aspect of care. This is no longer the norm. Today, when appropriate, breast reconstruction can begin at the time of mastectomy. New research suggests that neither radiation nor chemotherapy has adverse effects on breast implants or tissue flaps.
Will Insurance Cover Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Your breast reconstruction surgery should be covered by your insurance, yes. This is mandated for most insurance companies by the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. This piece of legislation exists to enable women to get the care that is needed to restore the most natural-looking shape possible and also to give a woman back the confidence she had before her breast cancer diagnosis. Within the WHCRA are guidelines that cover the reconstruction of the affected breast as well as the opposite breast as needed to achieve symmetry and appearance. Some ancillary costs may also be covered under the law, such as treatment for lymphedema or other physical complications of mastectomy surgery. As a part of your breast reconstruction process, you'll need to contact your insurance company for specific information within your plan.
Want To Learn More About Preparing For Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Dr. Hunsicker would love to speak with you during a private one-on-one consultation. Please give our office a call or fill out or online form to schedule your consultation at Revalla Plastic Surgery today.