This is a bit of a medical lesson for those that are interested …. Just in my own simple language so you will have to rely on google if anyone wants more detail or technical info!
One of the things I’ve had to consider in proceeding with the double mastectomy is then whether to have a breast reconstruction. When the breast surgeon does my mastectomies, he will be removing every possible breast cell, so that there will then only be a tiny (<1%?) chance of breast cancer ever appearing in my body. Basically I will be left with the skin that surrounded my breast tissue and not much else.
I then have the options of reconstruction (or not) as follows:
– No reconstruction at all, just a flat chest. And then you can place inserts in your bra or swimwear if you wish. Many women choose this option after breast surgery, as they really do not want to go ahead with the trauma, and expense, of further operations. I understand that only 16% of women go ahead with reconstruction, so this is the option I believe most women have chosen following mastectomy.
– A synthetic implant. This is a major surgery, but quicker than a transplant. This reconstruction method is often chosen by women because the surgery is less traumatic and the recovery period shorter than a transplant reconstruction.
– A DIEP or TRAM flap reconstruction. Both these surgeries use part of the woman’s abdomen to create new breast mounds. Put simply, the surgeon is transplanting part of the abdomen tissue and stitching it into the breasts. The TRAM flap method uses abdominal tissues and muscles, while the DIEP flap method takes abdominal tissues only. Both methods require skilled plastic surgeons to perform the operation, under microscopes at some point. I am planning to have a DIEP flap transfer.
– There are also other methods of transplanting tissue from your back or backside but I did not really look into these.
And another thing to note is that a breast reconstruction is not a “boob job” which involves enhancing or reducing what is already there. A reconstruction is what it is called: a RECONSTRUCTION of the entire breast tissue. A “boob job” is a cosmetic procedure to improve what God has given you. A reconstruction happens when what God has given you is taken away following a diagnosis of disease, or threat of disease. Please don’t confuse the two! A reconstruction is a much bigger surgery, following the diagnosis of a very scary condition! The result is unlikely to be better than what was there before – there will be scars and loss of sensitivity. But it will be good enough. And it will be cancer free!
Each woman has her own reasons for choosing a particular reconstruction method (or none at all). For me, I chose the DIEP because it means I get to have my own tissue in my body. It also means my surgery will be long (10 – 16 hours) and the recovery period takes up to 3 months, followed by further touch up surgery several months down the track. But I like the thought that my own tissue, while not the same as the original, will be part of me, will gain and lose weight, and grow old with me.
Below is a diagram of the DIEP process. I am planning to have a double DIEP – on both sides. There will be scarring on both breasts, and a big one from hip to hip on my abdomen. But the scars will heal. And I will still be me! And I won’t have breast cancer either ….