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Breast Cancer Awareness Month with August Health - Week 3: Reconstruction

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:15 AM EDT
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FISHERSVILLE Va. (WHSV) - Depending on the treatment plan, those battling breast cancer may have to think about reconstruction. Whether that be through traditional surgeries or new innovations, Augusta Health surgeon Dr. Shannon Tierney says the reconstruction is considered through the entire journey.

Experts say reconstruction is to help the patient achieve the cosmetic outcome that they may desire.

“Now that could be a complete recreation of a new breast, a breast reduction and a lift along with a lumpectomy. It could be creating an aesthetic flat chest which is a flat chest without any redundant extra skin so that a patient can either comfortably wear a prosthetic or go without,”

No matter the elected surgery, reconstruction is on the mind of the patient and physician from the very beginning.

“As we are doing planning, we are constantly thinking about what are going to be the long-term outcomes for this patient,” Dr. Tierney explained. “The further in advance we can plan for reconstruction, the better it will go and the more we will be able to accommodate the patient’s needs, particularly when it comes to combining surgeries.”

Augusta Health partners with a plastic surgeon from the University of Virginia to perform reconstructive surgeries for breast cancer patients.

There are various surgeries that may suit the needs of the patient including implant reconstruction, DIEP reconstructions, breast reductions and goldilocks mastectomies.

Goldilocks mastectomies involve using the leftover skin from the mastectomy procedure and inverting it to make a new breast mound.

“It is particularly successful for women who don’t want to have to wear a prosthetic in the future, women who don’t like wearing a bra, women who are obese and if they went flat might end up cratered, and women who want the option for reconstruction in the future but don’t want to go through it at the moment,” Dr. Tierney explained.

Each patient is different but there are a few risk factors that can lead to poor outcomes following reconstructive procedures. Dr. Tierney says that the ideal patient has a healthy vascular system.

“Smoking is of the biggest risk factors for complications with reconstruction. Things that cause vascular damage like diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure are risk factors morbid obesity patients do have a harder time, but again none of these are hard and fast contraindications to reconstruction. There is usually always some sort of bridging technique that can achieve something that is acceptable for the patient,” Dr. Tierney explained.

Dr. Tierney says the reconstruction is not about vanity but rather the patient reclaiming their own body.

“Having a body that she can be comfortable with. A body that doesn’t remind her of the arduous journey she has been through every time she steps out of the shower. That is different for different women. For some women, it is totally fine to have a flat chest, that doesn’t bother them. With other women, that is going to be a constant anxious reminder of their cancer,” Dr. Tierney said.

For more information on reconstructive surgeries at Augusta Health, click here.

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