When we think about cancer, a few things come to mind. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Hair loss. And often, remarkable recovery for cancer survivors. We hear endless stories of breast cancer every day. It is probably the best-known form of cancer, and it gets a lot of coverage. There’s one part of breast cancer that is rarely discussed. That is breast reconstruction and breast reconstruction surgery options.
Sometimes, a woman has to get a mastectomy as part of her treatment. This means she has had one or both breasts surgically removed to stop her cancer from spreading.
Other times, patients who have a high risk of contracting cancer get preventive mastectomies. Angelina Jolie has famously had this procedure done. While we often celebrate the strength and courage of these women, we rarely think about the practical aspects of their lives. Few people stop and wonder what it’s like for them to live without breasts.
Dr Rizk is one of the few. He has vast experience of breast reconstruction surgery for cancer survivors. Through breast reconstruction surgery, Dr Rizk restores these women’s shape, curve, and sense of femininity. Feeling beautiful and whole is a large part of cancer recovery, and reconstructing your breasts is a great way to feel complete once again.
If you’re a survivor that has finished her treatment, breast reconstruction surgery can help you regain your sense of beauty. You have already restored your health, and getting new breasts can help your body match your mind.
Some survivors do things in tandem, having their new breasts reconstructed in the same operation that extracts the old ones. This is the exception though. Most patients prefer to wait and focus on the psychological aspects of healing.
When they’re working on breast reconstructions, Sydney surgeons use the same tools and methods that they use in breast implants. This means they can insert saline implants, silicone implants, or fat grafts.
For cancer survivors, fat grafts are the most popular, because they are the least likely to cause an allergic reaction. The cells of cancer patients are already sensitive, so using a part of the patient’s own body to heal them is less likely to trigger a relapse. Incidentally, breast reconstruction is possible even if the survivor had previously received radiotherapy. It’s perfectly safe.
Fat transfer does have a few downsides though. For one thing, the grafts have to be taken from the patient’s tummy or flanks. This is because abdominal fat is a close match for breast tissue, so it will feel like a real breast. While this ‘free lipo’ is a blessing for regular patients, things are a little different for cancer survivors. They have often faced rigorous medication, as well as the effect of the disease, so they have probably lost a lot of weight. They may not have much fat left to graft.
Another challenge in fat grafting is even if the patient has plenty of fat to harvest, it may not be enough to get the cup size they want. And if the patient would like their breast sizes to match, they have to be willing to reduce the size of their healthy breast. Few women want any kind of breast reduction, so that might be a challenge. For this reason, fat transfer is often used in tandem with implants during breast reconstruction surgery.
Once the choice of breast reconstruction material has been selected, the site of the implant has to be prepared. Because of the tissue damage caused by mastectomy, cancer survivors often have no breast tissue, skin, or muscle at the point of extraction. For this reason, skin and muscle have to be grafted as part of the surgery.
There are two ways to do this. One is to extract some muscle from the patient’s back and use it to anchor the patient’s new breast. The muscle will cover the implant, just like the pectoral muscle would in a healthy patient.
Option two is to stretch the skin on the patient’s chest then place the implant under the stretched skin. This method takes far longer. A surgical balloon has to be placed under the skin, and then the patient will visit the clinic periodically so that the doctor can gradually inflate the balloon. Once the skin is sufficiently expanded, an implant can be inserted. Skin expansion usually takes 3 months.
A sub-option is applicable in cases where the patient is getting a transplant made of abdominal fat. In such scenarios, the surgeon can harvest a tummy flap that includes fat, skin, and muscle, then graft it as a comprehensive implant.
Dr Rizk understands that for women, breast surgeries aren’t just about having a nice chest or getting a beach-ready body. It’s not just ornamental. A woman’s breasts are often the first things other people notice about her, so she pays a lot of attention to how her chest appears.
But it’s so much more than what other people see. Her breasts are a big part of how she defines herself as a woman. The way she views her body influences how she moves through the world, which means it has an impact not just on her, but on how she treats everyone she meets.
This is, even more, key for cancer survivors. Throughout their treatment, they put all their energy into getting better. Once they beat the beast, they might focus more on their friends and families, helping them to recover from the ordeal that they have all just shared. It’s often a little while before their focus shifts back to themselves, because most women are naturally nurturing and they don’t quite know how to put themselves first.
That’s why breast reconstruction surgery is such a big deal. It marks the point where a woman regains herself. She becomes more than a mother, daughter, wife, sister, cancer survivor. She begins to see herself as a beautiful woman once more, a woman with a sensual life to live. She remembers what it’s like to feel whole, desirable, and feminine. Usually, her hair has grown back, or she has a good hairdresser, so she’s beginning to feel like a better version her former self. Reconstructive surgery is the next step in this process.
Dr Rizk has been through this amazing transformation with many patients, so he understands the physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and surgical components of this journey. He’s exactly the kind of surgeon that you want walking you through this transition. So call his clinic today on 1300 707 007 and book your appointment so he can work with you and bring back your inner butterfly.
Dr Rizk advocates the National Law and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) guidelines that any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
In terms of breast surgery performed in Sydney by Dr Joseph Rizk, he offers a variety of procedures. These include: