From Belly to Breast: Rebuilding After Cancer
BREAST CANCER PREVALENCE: According to breastcancer.org, one in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In the year 2009 alone, there were 192,370 new cases discovered in women in the United States. Breast cancer also occurs in men, however, the chances are slim. About 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. In the year 2008, there were a reported 1,990 cases in men. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. besides lung cancer. Many women can survive this deadly disease if diagnosed early enough. In 2008, nearly 2.5 million women beat breast cancer.
CANCER-CAUSING GENE: Of the many genes that make up the human body, BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two genes to look out for. These two genes are the genes detected in breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, if a woman inherits a mutation in either of these two genes, she is at risk of developing breast cancer. In normal cells, these genes ensure stability of genetic material. When there is a mutation in men or women, the risk of cancer increases.
NEW PROCEDURES: Typically, if breast cancer is diagnosed, doctors will remove the breast and replace it with an implant. However, conventional breast implants will scar and change over time, thus requiring surgery to correct those changes approximately every five years or so. A new procedure, called deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP) flap surgery is used to reconstruct breasts as well. This procedure uses fat, blood vessels and skin from the stomach/abdomen area in order to reconstruct the breast. The borrowed fat, blood and skin from the abdomen attaches to tissue and blood vessels from the chest. Then, reconstruction of the areola and nipple follow. DIEP flap reconstruction is the preferred reconstructive technique for breast cancer patients. Another benefit is DIEP does not scar and change over time. Therefore, there are no additional procedures that are needed after the main procedure is performed. According to Plastic Reconstructive and Microsurgical Associates, many women prefer this type of reconstruction because it mimics that of a tummy tuck, and they receive the added benefit of a flatter stomach. Because this surgery is very detailed and technically difficult, there are only about 40 surgeons in the United States who perform this operation. Doctors say the reconstructed breast may even appear more youthful and firmer than the natural breast.