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Breast Cancer: Reconstruction after mastectomy

Updated: Wednesday, October 30 2013, 04:48 PM EDT
Following a mastectomy, a woman has the choice to have breast reconstructive surgery. While there are great options out there, many require driving miles outside the Capital Region or even out-of-state.
Giving local breast cancer patients options, Albany Medical Center offers free flap breast reconstructive surgery. It is a fairly new form of reconstructive which involves using a patient’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast.
“When I look in the mirror right now I look like my old self.” Debra Giagni underwent a type of free flap surgery over the summer after undergoing a mastectomy to remove 3 large masses on her breast. TRAM flap reconstructive surgery used tissue from Debra’s abdomen to rebuild the shape of her breast.
“You always know you have one side that is you and one side that still is you just from another body part. Whereas with prosthetics, you can tell they're not yours.”
Debra is a two-time breast cancer survivor, her first bout with the disease was 20 years ago.
Unlike in the early 1990’s, this time around when it came to reconstructive surgery her surgeon at Albany Medical Center gave her more options to choose from she wasn’t aware of.
“He sized me up, I'm a little person with skinny arms and skinny legs. He was amazed when he opened the gown and told me we had other.”
Assistant Professor of plastic surgery at Albany Medical Center, Dr. Kristin Rezack says a mastectomy and free flap surgery whether using tissue from abdomen, thigh, and or waist of buttocks can all be done in the same day. It’s also covered by insurance.
“Not everyone is a candidate but those that are, we can use their own tissue and they don't have to use an implant reconstruction.” Dr. Rezack explains. “It feels and looks more like a natural breast. Some patients don't want a foreign body in them or an implant, or they just aren't a candidate for implants if they're getting other procedures performed.”
Surgeons say while recovery is a bit strenuous at first, additional surgeries usually aren’t necessary unless it involves nipple reconstruction. Albany Medical Center offers aerola tattooing to achieve an even more natural look.
After her TRAM flap reconstruction, Debra had a reduction and lift done on her ‘good side’ … something that didn’t go unnoticed on a recent trip to Florida with friends.
“Every single one of them kept asking which was the real side because they couldn’t tell in my bathing suit!”
If you have any questions related to health or story ideas, please send them to Julia Dunn at JMDUNN@WRGB.COM.Breast Cancer: Reconstruction after mastectomy

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