More and more women are realizing that breast reconstruction is a viable option immediately following breast cancer mastectomies. A team of surgeons in Austin not only perform routine breast reconstruction in the same procedure as the patient’s mastectomy, but craft the new breast from their own tissue, instead of relying on implants. One of the surgeons, Dr. Ned Snyder IV, discusses their unique solution to breast reconstruction and how important it is for a woman to get her breasts back.
By Dr. Ned Snyder, MD
and Adam McMillon
The Right to a Breast Reconstruction
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported an increase in the rate of breast reconstructions this year, citing nearly 100,000 procedures performed. As a result of breast cancer testing, women are taking preventative measures by having a mastectomy and breast reconstruction before they are ever diagnosed. Of those 100,000 procedures, the vast majority involved implants and expanders. “Implants are a good option for some, but the downsides are enough to consider other options,” says Dr. Snyder. “Like anything man-made, implants require maintenance, so a woman in her 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s will have to undergo procedures a few times throughout her life in order to maintain the implants, or to replace them.” While the options for reconstruction depend entirely on the type of patient, Snyder and his fellow surgeons take a different approach that requires no further maintenance: using the patient’s own tissue to build new breasts.
Building a New Breast from your own Tissue
Utilizing what’s known as a DIEP Flap procedure, Snyder takes skin and fat from the abdomen and moves it to the breast area following mastectomy. The blood supply is disconnected at the abdomen, and reconnected at the breast, allowing for the tissue to receive vital nutrients that maintain the new breast for the rest of the patient’s life. “In almost all cases we’re able to give someone essentially something equally as good or, in many cases, better than what they had before,” says Snyder. “In a lot of women we’re able to do nipple sparing mastectomies depending on the cancer, which allows us to save the nipple-areola complex and reattach it onto the new breast.” The entirety of this procedure, including the initial mastectomy, is performed by Snyder and fellow surgeons in the same procedure. “With immediate reconstruction, a woman never has to live without her breasts,” says Snyder. “The things we can do now and the options we have for reconstruction have raised the bar. No woman should be going without breasts following her mastectomy.”
Getting Back to Life After Cancer
For some, waiting for months and months to get a reconstruction, or spending those months, and maybe even years, deciding if they want reconstruction, can only delay and increase the physical and emotional pain caused by preventative and required mastectomies. “I get a tremendous reward from all of my patients that I help win their battle with cancer by reestablishing themselves as the woman they were before a mastectomy,” says Snyder. “If we can reconstruct their breasts in the same procedure and use their own tissue, we can greatly reduce their emotional recovery time and get them back to life. This is the final step, and a very important part, of their breast cancer treatment.”