Rebuilding after breast cancer

Women nationwide know the importance of October as "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month". Every year, the disease touches the lives of some 200,000 women in the U.S. While early diagnosis saves nearly 80% of women, it doesn't mean the battle is finished.

Rebuilding after breast cancer is half of the battle, but there are two new ways women are rebuilding after breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivor, Donna Bramante Indelicato, was diagnosed when her cancer was at a stage three, invasive level.

Donna beat breast cancer twice, but the cost of victory was steep. She underwent a double mastectomy. (:06)

"It was devastating, I felt like a primal part of who I am as a woman had been removed,” said Donna.

Donna didn't have enough tissue left to hold together an implant. She thought reconstructive surgery was "off the table" until she found "alloderm".
It's comprised of donated human skin: the cells are removed, leaving only collagen. Surgeons sew this new flesh to the surrounding muscle and chest wall to keep it in place.

Dr. Amy S. Colwell, a plastic surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital, said they "actually create a pocket around the implant so we can keep that implant ton the woman's chest where it

Andrea Sarvady had a mastectomy, too. "I was scared, but I thought that's what I need to do," saisd Sarvady.

Instead of implants, she had a new procedure called DIEP, or deep inferior epi-gastric perforator flap. Surgeons create a new breast out of tissue, skin and fat from the stomach. Then, it's reattached to blood vessels in the chest. Recovery takes six weeks, compared to two months for standard implant surgery.

"The complications that we seen with breast implant that we commonly use for breast reconstruction we don't have those, and as the patient ages, the breast reconstruction will age as well,” explained Dr. Grant Carlson, of Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute.
Andrea Sarvady

"It was taking one part of my body to help out another part,” said Sarvady. “That sat right with

Two new procedures, two survivors: one mutual goal.

"There was hope for me finally that i could be whole again,” said Donna.

Deep surgery comes along with a rather small 5% failure rate. When that occurs, surgeons remove the flap and insert an implant.studies on alloderm show it can be used immediately after a mastectomy, which may eliminate the need for a second surgery.


BACKGROUND: A mastectomy is surgery to remove a breast. It is performed either to treat or to prevent breast cancer. Only high-risk patients have this surgery to prevent cancer. There are four main types of surgery, and yours depends on your specific stage of cancer, size of the tumor, size of the breast and whether the lymph nodes are involved. Many women have breast reconstruction to
rebuild the breast after a mastectomy. (Source: NIH - National Cancer

AFTER BREAST CANCER: The scars from a mastectomy are not only physical; they take an emotional toll on women. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons say 70% of breast cancer patients who are eligible for reconstruction aren't informed of their options. While there are many options for breast reconstruction, including saline-filled implants and tissue flap procedures, some women don't have enough tissue left in the chest after surgery to hold heavy implants or tissue transplants in place. Plastic Surgeons are taking two innovative approaches in helping women rebuild after breast cancer. Now, both
donated human tissue and tissue, skin and fat from the stomach is allowing many survivors to move on physically and mentally. (SOURCE: Bernhard, Lisa. They Can Rebuild Me;

FINDING DOCTOR RIGHT: The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends patients seeking breast reconstruction look for a physician who has completed at least five years of surgical training with a minimum of two years in plastic surgery, is trained and experienced in all plastic surgery procedures, including breast, body, face and reconstruction, operates only in accredited medical facilities, adheres to a strict code of ethics, fulfills continuing medical education requirements and it's board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

REBUILDING FOR A BETTER FUTURE: Surgeons have started sewing donated human skin - or tissue, skin and fat from the stomach - to surrounding muscle to hold an implant in place. "[We] actually create a pocket around the implant, so we can keep that implant on the woman's chest where it belongs," says Dr. Amy S. Colwell of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA. The tissue matrix
acts as a frame for new tissue to grow on and around. "Your body incorporates it. You have blood vessels in your dermis, in your skin, that if there's a collagen matrix there, it will invade it and it will become part of your body," Colwell says. Study results show this technique can be safely used in certain patients immediately after a mastectomy, which could eliminate the need for a second surgery. There is some risk the implanted material will be rejected by the body. (Source: The American Cancer Society;

For More Information, Contact:
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Vincent Dollard
News Media Relations

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