#SABCS 2017 through a Patient Advocate’s Lens

#SABCS 2017 through a Patient Advocate’s Lens #SABCS 2017 through a patient advocate’s lens is about my experience at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (#SABCS) 2017.  Two descriptive words that sum it up quickly from my personal standpoint are, exhilarating and exhausting.  I am an advocate for breast reconstruction options after mastectomy.  That is my wheelhouse so I carefully contemplated the benefits of attending.  But, there is no breast reconstruction without breast cancer.  I found it to be a profound conference on many levels both intellectually and emotionally and well worth the experience. A Robust Patient Advocacy Program My decision to attend was solidified after learning about the robust patient advocacy program that SABCS has.  Each evening, after the general sessions, patient advocates would gather to listen to selected “hot topics” of the day.  We could listen, interact, and ask questions. There were notable speakers and leaders in the Continue Reading →

Recap #PSTM16

Recap #PSTM16 Plastic Surgery the Meeting may seem like a distant memory but a recap of #PSTM16 from a patient advocate standpoint summarizes the value of my first experience as an attendee.  It was a fast and furious weekend for me at the Los Angeles Convention Center since I was only able to attend Friday through Monday.  I scheduled classes to attend, met with plastic surgeons, and walked the vendor floor learning about products specific to breast reconstruction. The Educational Programs The first class I attended was one that focused on Cultural Competence in plastic surgery.  I wanted to step outside the box of breast reconstruction a bit and understand the broader world of plastic surgery.  It was a valuable instructional course.  The discussion given by a variety of plastic surgeons at this session focused on recognizing and embracing cultural diversity in the workplace among plastic surgery co-workers as well Continue Reading →

Breast Reconstruction ~ Concealing Scars After Mastectomy

Breast Reconstruction ~ Concealing Scars After Mastectomy Breast reconstruction and concealing scars after mastectomy is a certainty for patients post surgery.  There are those who bravely bare their scars as a symbol of strength and what they have been through.  But for many, hiding the scars of breast reconstruction is a skill and becomes a sort of creative art. Various Surgeries ~ Various Scars There are abdominal scars and breast scars if you have had DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  LAT flap will leave you with scars on your back and breasts.  TUG flap will leave you with breasts and inner thigh scars.  PAP and GAP flap will leave scars at the breasts and buttocks areas.  Those who have immediate breast reconstruction will likely have the least amount of scars on their breasts, but scars nonetheless. Placement of scars is a topic that should definitely be brought up in the initial Continue Reading →

The Psycho-social and Psycho-sexual Benefits of Breast Reconstruction

The Psycho-social and Psycho-sexual Benefits of Breast Reconstruction The psycho-social and psycho-sexual benefits of breast reconstruction have been studied in a number of peer reviewed articles.  Sharing evidence based research is a key component to my advocacy work.  It is important to me that studies have been done and data has been collected from patients who have had reconstruction to assess the impact and outcome of such a complex surgery.  These studies validate the information I share. A Personal Account of the Benefits I did a lot of research before my DIEP flap reconstruction but not specifically about the psycho-social or psycho-sexual benefits.  Keeping that in mind, this blog for me, is truly a personal account of what impact my own reconstruction had on my self-image and femininity.  I am not yet comfortable dipping my toes in the water of revealing the impact on my sexual well being as it Continue Reading →

Shared Decision Making

Shared Decision Making ~ Breast Reconstruction after Mastectomy March has been designated Shared Decision Making month, #SDMmonth, by a group I started following on social media, Informed Medical Decisions Foundation.  I participated recently in one of their online webinars on the topic.  I often tweet about shared decision making and in the practice of plastic surgery, and in particular breast reconstruction after mastectomy; I embrace the value of this practice. Two of the physicians that I have engaged with in the practice of shared decision making are my breast surgeon who performed my mastectomy and my micro-surgeon who performed my breast reconstruction.  They both embody the very definition of the phrase as defined here by the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation. Shared decision making (SDM) is a collaborative process that allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together, taking into account the best scientific evidence available, as well as Continue Reading →

Genetic Testing ~ A Tough Decision

Genetic Testing ~ A Tough Decision A recent article I read, Beyond BRCA: Testing negative and living in the “gray zone” for cancer risk, motivated me to write a personal response.  This is the story of my own genetic testing that for me was a tough decision. The article was about a fellow Twitter advocate in the breast cancer community, Stacey Tinianov. We have a bit in common as you can see by the list. Both love coffee and tweeting. You can find Stacey on Twitter @coffeemommy and me @6state Both maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle Both gave birth to our children before the age of 30 Both had two children and nursed them Both love the “blueberry diet”… AKA…”a lifetime of following the myriad of published “cancer prevention” techniques Both diagnosed with breast cancer in our 40’s (me> a 2nd diagnosis in my 50’s) Chemotherapy – Shared Continue Reading →

Breast Reconstruction: Benefits vs. Cosmesis

Breast Reconstruction: Benefits vs. Cosmesis What are breast reconstruction benefits and are the benefits vs. cosmesis equal or separate? Although this question may not have been stated in these words, women considering breast reconstruction must think about this complex question. No one can come close to knowing what this decision involves except the patient themselves. Not only is it a difficult and complex process of logic but it involves a great emotional decision as well. I am speaking about breast reconstruction in very specific circumstances. Humans are faced with many unexpected events in life that catapult us to become educated about a topic we never imagined we would be learning about. A cancer diagnosis or finding that you are BRCA positive is one of those life events. Those who are considering breast reconstruction after cancer or for prophylactic reasons to greatly decrease chances of a cancer occurrence go through great Continue Reading →

Fears of Breast Cancer Recurrence

Fears of Breast Cancer Recurrence Fears of breast cancer recurrence are palpable for anyone who has been diagnosed with this disease we have yet to find a cure for.  Each of us handles those fears differently. I had a recurrence.  I’d like to share with you my own experience, how I faced those fears and how I dealt with them. As an educator for many years, I have seen the differences in personalities both in students and parents when it comes to handling what is seemingly the simplest of fears. What is catastrophic to one is barely a blip on the radar to another. Herein lays the explanation of how anyone handles breast cancer whether it is a first diagnosis, a second diagnosis or living with metastatic, treatable but incurable, cancer. I would never look at someone and say, “Pull up your big girl pants and get on with it!” Continue Reading →

Best Plastic Surgery International Paper of the Year

Best Plastic Surgery International Paper of the Year Congratulations to Drs. Olivier Branford and Patrick Mallucci of the UK for being awarded best plastic surgery International Paper of the year from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Plastic Surgery Journal. They will be recognized by their peers in Boston October 16-20, 2015, at Plastic Surgery the Meeting, a gathering of over 3,000 plastic surgeons and surgical medical professionals from all over the World. The paper, Population Analysis of the Perfect Breast: A Morphometric Analysis, was a study done to determine current trends in what is considered the aesthetically pleasing breast shape using a measurement of form (morphometric). It was a comprehensive survey study with cross-cultural opinions from men, women and plastic surgeons regarding ideal breast proportions. The consensus was a 45:55 ratio meaning; 45 percent of breast fullness lies above the nipple line and 55 percent below the nipple line. Continue Reading →

Breast Cancer Patient Education Act of 2015

The Breast Cancer Patient Education Act of 2015:  Re-introduced May 5, 2015. As stated on the Congress.Gov website: Amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to provide for the planning and implementation of an education campaign to inform breast cancer patients anticipating surgery about the availability and coverage of breast reconstruction, prostheses, and other options, with a focus on informing patients who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. To the Members of the 114th Congress of the United States: Close to 12% of women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. 2015 alone will bring an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer. According to statistics from Breast cancer.org 60,290 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed. Surprisingly, and a little known fact, there will be approximately 2,350 new cases of invasive breast Continue Reading →