After a woman has lost one or both of her breasts to breast cancer she can feel as if she has lost an important part of being a woman and her self-confidence can be affected. As a board member of Bright Pink and Susan G. Komen, Dr. Lin has a strong understanding of what his patients are going through when they first walk through the door. With extensive experience, you can trust you are in great hands from the initial consultation all the way through to the recovery period. Dr. Lin reconstructs patient breasts with three different techniques which are outlined below. For more information on breast reconstruction, we invite you to contact Dr. Lin to have a consultation at his Boston practice.
“My experience with Dr Lin was truly amazing. From the moment I met him, I knew that he was the right surgeon for me. He is by far the nicest, most approachable and down to earth surgeon I have ever met. He is kind, caring, humble, takes time to listen to you, and explains everything”
DIEP Flap Reconstruction
In a DIEP flap reconstruction (DIEP stands for deep inferior epigastric perforator artery) fat, skin, and blood vessels are cut from the wall of the lower belly and moved up to the chest to rebuild the breast. Once in place, Dr. Lin reattaches the blood vessels of the flap to blood vessels in the chest using microsurgery. DIEP flap reconstruction is popular because it doesn’t move or cut muscle. Plus, because fat and tissue is removed from the belly, the patient will end up with a flatter, tighter lower abdomen, similar to results from a tummy tuck. Of course, there will be a lengthy horizontal scar just below the bikini line as well.
Dr. Lin is a member of a deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap breast reconstruction group. Additional photos may be found at www.bostondiep.com.
Latissimus Dorsi Flap Reconstruction
In a latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction, an oval flap of skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels from the upper back is used to reconstruct the breast. This flap is moved under the skin from the back around to the chest to rebuild the breast. The blood vessels stay attached to their original blood supply. A latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction is considered a muscle-transfer type of flap. This method is a good option for women with small- to medium-sized breasts because the area of the back where the tissue originates doesn’t have a great deal of fat. In most cases, a breast implant has to be placed under the flap to achieve the desired shape, size, and projection. A downside of the latissimus flap method is that the patient may have partial loss of strength of function that makes it hard to lift things and twist, affecting activities such as swimming, golf, tennis, and the ability to turn and manipulate objects.
In implant-based reconstruction, an implant is used to rebuild the breast. This method requires less surgery than flap reconstruction since it only involves the chest area and not a tissue donor site. Surgery time and recovery time are usually shorter with implant reconstruction than flap reconstruction. The implant is placed under the pectoral chest muscle. The one unknown here is how long the implant(s) will last. Whether filled with saline solution or silicone gel, breast implants usually last from 10 to 20 years. Implant-Based reconstruction is a good option for thin women with small breasts because these women often don’t have enough extra tissue on their bellies, backs, thighs, or buttocks to form a good breast shape as required in flap surgery. It is also a good option if you want to avoid the incisions and recoveries required with flap procedures.
How long is the breast reconstruction process?
The length of the breast reconstruction process varies from patient to patient. There are three main options: implant-based, autologous (using one’s own tissue), and combined (Latissimus flap with implant). In addition to the type of mastectomy (nipple-sparing versus skin-sparing), the breast reconstruction process can be short or more involved. Most patients have a breast reconstruction process that can be 10-12 months with at least 4 procedures. However, with certain patients, that timeframe could be shorter or longer.
Does reconstruction affect cancer survival?
No. Multiple studies have shown that reconstruction does not affect the survival or detection of cancer recurrence.