Quality of Life: DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction

Quality of Life: DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Do you ever consider how your quality of life has changed after DIEP flap breast reconstruction?  The study from the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal compares three groups of women; those who have undergone DIEP flap breast reconstruction, women who chose no reconstruction or a method other than DIEP flap, and those in the general population who did not have breast cancer or reconstruction.  The questionnaire studies long-term quality of life after DIEP flap. A statement from the study: The DIEP technique also provides better QOL than no breast reconstruction or reconstruction using other methods, according to the study by Dr. Vincent Hunsinger of Georges Pompidou European Hospital, Paris, and colleagues. They write, “Our results indicate that DIEP breast reconstruction allows patients with breast cancer to maintain a good QOL in the long-term.” The definition of quality from the English Oxford Living dictionary: Continue Reading →

Psychological Benefits of Breast Reconstruction

Psychological Benefits of Breast Reconstruction There have been many articles written over the years regarding the psychological benefits of breast reconstruction.  When a woman or man loses a body part to breast cancer it seems reasonable to expect one would experience upset and psychological trauma no less than any other amputee.  However, the decision to remedy the amputation of the body part through breast reconstruction is not an easy process.  It means more surgery, recovery, dealing with possible side effects and complications, time off work, support from loved ones, research, and acceptance there will be lifelong scars. One of the driving factors to move forward with my own breast reconstruction after my mastectomy was to remedy the “psychological distress” I was experiencing from the loss of my breasts.  It took a full week after my mastectomy for that psychological anguish to hit home in a figurative and literal sense.  This Continue Reading →

Possible Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction

Possible Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction I recently had the privilege of discussing some of the of possible risks and complications of breast reconstruction with Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo from PRMA plastic surgery.  The interview was done for #AllThingsCancer a program put out by the Anti-Cancer Club.  The two basic choices for breast reconstruction after mastectomy are implant based and autologous breast reconstruction (“flaps”).  There are pros and cons to each option.  What is important to emphasize is that for most patients, each option usually includes a staged approach involving more than one procedure for the best results. Implant breast reconstruction involves replacing the tissue removed by the mastectomy with a saline or silicone filled implant.  In most cases, a temporary implant known as a tissue expander is placed first to help shape the new breast.  The tissue expander is then replaced by a permanent implant at a second surgery. Autologous “flap” techniques Continue Reading →

ERAS ~ Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

ERAS ~ Enhanced Recovery After Surgery I love it when I can say, “I learned something new today” and last week it was about ERAS, Enhanced Recovery After Surgery.  I was having a conversation with the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap breast reconstruction, Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo.  I asked him if there were new protocols or changes in patient care during recovery in the two years since my DIEP flap surgery.  A smile came across his face and I could tell he couldn’t wait to tell me about ERAS.  He eloquently told me about the philosophy and implementation of this protocol and I was captivated.  It must have been the look of complete amazement on my face because he smiled and said, “You should write a blog about it.”  Nothing like a little challenge from a world class micro-surgeon to bequeath a bit of pressure for my next writing Continue Reading →

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction An article published in Medscape.com on burns in breasts after mastectomy which also included after breast reconstruction admittedly left me riveted.  Look at this statement from the article: Together with this case series, the literature suggests the most common heat sources responsible for the identified burns included: Heat conduction: using heating pads, hot liquids, and hyperthermia devices. Solar radiation: sunbathing with a dark swimsuit or using a sun lamp. Heat convection: using hair dryers. A close examination of this article and the above-mentioned items leads me to conclude that the most common culprits are household items and sunbathing.  I was given literature regarding post-surgical care from the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap breast reconstruction to clearly avoid heat of any kind to my reconstructed breast, including standing with my back to the shower as well as sunbathing. I personally Continue Reading →

#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 →