When do you need a plastic surgeon? If you are battling breast cancer, the answer is almost immediately. As most of you know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011. At the time of my diagnosis, my surgeon laid out a plan that included a mastectomy. After my breast removal, the surgeon felt that I could see a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction options. This seemed weird and illogical. I want to share with you that talking to a plastic surgeon even before a biopsy is a good idea.
My surgical experience
My breast cancer surgeries started with a surgical biopsy of two tumors. This left a sideways, smile shaped scar along the left side of my left breast. The scar was dark and it was visible when I wore tank tops, halter tops or a bathing suit.
The second surgery was a mastectomy. I did not like the plan my first surgeon--the one who performed the biopsy--proposed for me. So I got a second opinion at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They reviewed all of my tests and imaging, did more tests and more imaging and set me up to meet with a team that included a plastic surgeon and a oncology surgeon.
The oncology surgeon and plastic surgeon from the cancer center worked as a team. Prior to my surgery date, I was given the option of mastectomy or lumpectomy. We talked about my reconstruction options. My choice of treatments would impact my reconstruction options. I gained more information about radiation and breast reconstruction from my plastic surgeon than from any other doctor.
I decided on a mastectomy based on the information provided by my entire team, but the plastic surgeon really helped me to make an informed decision. My choice for reconstruction was a tissue expander followed by implants. A flap option was available, but I chose the implants because that is what seemed right for me.
Expanders and implants
The expander was placed where my left breast was at the time of mastectomy. The oncology surgeon removed my left breast, then the plastic surgeon put in the expander and closed the surgical incisions. This occurred in January 2012.
Expanders are not fun. They hurt, they are hard and uncomfortable. Tissue expanders make sleeping on your side difficult and uncomfortable. The expanders are filled over time, at regular interval, until the correct size is achieved. My final fill was in May 2012 and I had to wait three months before we could discuss implant surgery.
I decided on silicone implants. Yes, I said implants as in plural. My left breast was removed, but my right breast was intact. Four children and 50 years of gravity took its toll on the right side. In order to have symmetry, I had a lift and implant on the right side--in other words, the right side got a "boob-job."
That brings me to recovery from my implant surgery. It was two weeks ago. I still have stitches. Sleeping on my side is not an option until the incisions heal, so I must sleep on my back. The stitches and steri-strips itch like crazy. I have pain on the right side, there is little to no feeling on the left. That is the result of the mastectomy. To keep everything from bouncing around, I am required to an uber-supportive sports bra. At night, I wear the post-surgical bra from my mastectomy. It is a lot less constricting than the sports bra.
Did I need a plastic surgeon? Absolutely. I am happy with the way my surgeries have turned out so far. The scarring is minimal. Once everything is healed, I can wear a bikini and any shirt or dress I desire without worrying about scars showing. Think about talking to a plastic surgeon before making surgical decisions. Make sure to find a plastic surgeon who is experienced in breast reconstruction. A great plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction is worth their weight in gold.
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