Category Archives: Breast Reconstruction

Reconstructed Breasts Lose Sensation, NYT Reports

One of the realities about breast reconstruction that is rarely mentioned is the loss of sensation in the breast. Here, the NYT in a front-page story, reports one of the key issues that launched reporting for “Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction: What’s Right for You.”

Public Health Leader Shares Life as Stage 4 Breast Cancer Survivor

Former Michigan public health director Vern Anthony continues to educate, this time with information that helps more understand that a cancer recurrence, even two as she has had, is not a death sentence. Her most important advice: Live your life fully. And she has tips about what NOT to say to someone with cancer.

Older Women Happy with Breast Reconstruction, Study Finds

Breast reconstruction is a choice that women in their 70s increasingly make, or they return to fix old problems they have lived with for years. A University of Michigan study concludes that that age is NOT a factor that leads to poorer outcomes.

Sue Simon, 70, was 70 when she underwent autologous breast reconstruction. Here’s her story:

Help Us Spread Word of Our Message with a Review; ASCO Post Review Gives Praise

Below are 2 new reviews, including one from the most influential US organization of medical oncologists. You can help by going to, searching for our book under breast cancer surgery and clicking, read more. At the end of the thread is a place where you can add a review. Also, under how to buy/find the book, click on Tell a Librarian to get a flyer and other reviews. Take to your public library and ask if they carry the book; if they don’t, suggest they do. Thanks. Pat Anstett

Patricia Anstett, a well-published medical writer, has written Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction: What’s Right for You, a detailed account of one of the most important issues in the world of oncology. Along with the visual help of photographer Kathleen Galligan, Ms. Anstett has produced a valuable book in both the clinical cancer community as well as the patient-survivor sector…. Ms. Anstett made many wise choices in her book. She is a capable writer who knows her limitations in the craft of writing. As a result, she has produced an honest, valuable book that deals with clinical and emotional subjects that are daunting and confusing. Women who are facing these issues will be well served by this book.(The ASCO Post)

“In 2014, more than 230,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. More than 102,000 of them underwent reconstruction, more than 71,000 right away and nearly 31,000 later. Anstett, a veteran newspaper reporter, and Galligan, an Emmy-winning photographer and breast-cancer survivor, spent two years thoroughly investigating women’s choices: breast-sparing lumpectomies with radiation; removal of one breast with and without reconstruction; removal of two breasts with and without reconstruction; reconstruction with tissue, saline implants, and silicone implants; nipple-sparing operations; nipple tattoos; and preventive mastectomies. Fortunately, they ably spell out the pros and cons of each option, and they provide the full names of the survivors along with their photographs. Anstett and Galligan also include chapters on finances and insurance, sex and intimacy, and how to cope with feeling like ‘damaged goods’ after surgery. Shaded boxes provide invaluable additional information, including a Q&A with a genetics counselor and lists of resources, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. This important, well-reported guide should empower women with breast cancer to figure out their own best treatment. (Booklist)

Preparing for Breast Reconstruction


Preparing for Breast Reconstruction

Breast cancer surgery and reconstruction can be daunting, confusing and fraught with a sense of urgency. Take time to think through your decisions, which you will live with for a life-time. Condensed from “Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction: What’s Right for You” by Patricia Anstett (June, 2016; Rowman and Littlefield). More information at

  1. For the best results, seek out a breast cancer surgeon and plastic surgeon who do reconstruction all the time. Ones good at facelifts, nose jobs and wrinkle removal often don’t have the skills you are looking for and the best results. Ask your doctor, family and friends for names of breast surgeons and plastic surgeons. Visit the doctor’s or hospital’s Web sites. The best teams have extensive information online about their practices, the surgery options they perform, and pictures of patients with breast reconstruction. Ask for names of patients you can talk to.
  2. Find someone who is a good listener to accompany you to your first appointment. If no one is available, bring a small tape recorder to the appointment and ask to use it. Bring questions you have with you. Don’t be afraid to ask to have information repeated or explained further.
  3. Take time to see how the doctor reacts to your questions. Is she comfortable with you asking for information? Does she explain issues clearly? If you don’t like how the doctor responds, find another doctor or hospital where options may be different.
  4. Ask the doctor, hospital or your insurance plan what doctors you can see and what out-of-pocket costs you face. If your health plan doesn’t cover all costs and you have a limited income, you may be eligible for help from non-profit organizations such as the Pink Fund,
  5. Find out if you are eligible for surgery advances, such as direct-to-implant, one-step reconstruction or a nipple-sparing mastectomy. Your weight and body size can rule out some procedures.
  6. What kind of incisions does the doctor use and what scars will they create?
  7. Does the plastic surgeon mostly perform reconstruction with implants, as most do?
  8. Does the plastic surgeon perform autologous breast reconstruction with your own tissue, and if so, the more preferred, advance DIEP flap and related procedures?
  9. Are you at higher risk of surgery complications, such as lymphedema, a common swollen chest and arm problem, or heart problems, after radiation? What tests do you need to find out if you have a higher risk?
  10. Lose weight if possible; obesity is associated with a higher rate of surgery problems. Stop smoking; it increases the risk of complications.
  11. Find a person or team you can rely on to get you to appointments and help with household tasks and pets. Some women create Internet pages that allow family and friends to get medical updates or to bring you meals or help with other tasks. Take care of items you may not be able to tend to for a while, like a haircut or other health-related and other appointments.
  12. Follow instructions carefully about the surgery drains you may have. Keep track of the fluid drainage and avoid getting them wet. Some doctors say no showering until the drains are removed; others allow showering with precautions, such as showering backwards for a few weeks. Some doctors and women recommend purchasing a new or used shower chair to help caregivers help you shower.
  13. It will take weeks, even months, to get back to normal activities. It may be wise to schedule more recovery time from work or normal activities than you think you need.
  14. You may feel weird sensations, such as a pulling sensation, or be unable to lift your arm, even to take a half-gallon container of milk out of the refrigerator in the week or two after surgery. Your breasts may feel tight or too high up on your chest, which should resolve over a few months. Your nipple, if you have one, may develop a scab, change color or shape. See your plastic surgeon if problems persist. Gentle breast massages may help, beginning about two weeks after surgery, to increase blood flow and reduce swelling. Don’t use heat pads or ice packs; both can damage the skin. With time, sometimes weeks or even months, swelling should resolve.
  15. Resume exercising gradually. Begin walking, even around the house for a few minutes. Two weeks after surgery, most women can begin light exercises once or twice a day to increase the range of motion in their arms. Walking, running and using exercise machines that don’t require much arm movement should be fine, in moderation.
  16. If you are in severe pain, have lots of swelling or running a high temperature, call your doctor’s office.



Key Facts for Previvors about Breast Cancer Surgery, Reconstruction



By Patricia Anstett, “Breast Cancer Surgery and Reconstruction: What’s Right for You.” Published June, 2016, Rowman and Littlefield. Web site:

Available at;, some Barnes & Noble stores and some public libraries. Ask your BN store and library to carry it.


  1. Plastic surgeons that do facelifts, nose jobs and wrinkle removal often do not have enough experience to do breast reconstruction. Even among board-certified plastic surgeons, some do not have experience and training to do the latest procedures or may offer ones abandoned by top centers.
  2.  Breast reconstruction usually involves two or more procedures. It’s usually not done in a day.
  3. Federal law requires that breast reconstruction be paid by health insurance after a mastectomy. But many states and health plans are exempt. Your health insurance also may limit what doctors you can see. It’s important to ask what your insurance covers and what your out-of-pocket expenses will be.
  4.  Busty or larger-framed women have fewer breast reconstruction choices and poorer outcomes, studies show, and often are ineligible for nipple-sparing mastectomy and single-stage implant reconstruction without expanders, an operation known as direct-to-implant reconstruction. Top teams, however, are more open to performing nipple-sparing mastectomy on larger women, with good results.
  5. Most breast reconstruction is performed with breast implants. Doctor and hospital referral patterns lead to implants as a choice, along with quicker recovery from implant reconstruction.
  6. One in 10 women choose autologous reconstruction with their own tissue. Only a small number of plastic surgeons have advanced training in microvascular techniques to perform the most common one called a DIEP flap, shown in studies to have the best outcomes.
  7.  Breast reconstruction often is done at the time of mastectomy but 3 of 10 times women wait months, even years, because they need chemotherapy or radiation first; prefer to give their bodies time to heal; or want time to sort out their options.
  8.  The nipple can be hard to recreate surgically.  Some women never go back to get nipples after a mastectomy or live with less-than-perfect results. Some leading teams refer women to commercial tattoo artists because they consider their machines and inks better than those in many medical offices. Most women say they lose sensation in the nipple after breast reconstruction.
  9.  If you don’t like your initial results, you may need to search for reconstruction specialists good at fixing problems, particularly those that occur after an infection or radiation. As much as a third of a top doctor’s practice may involve these revision procedures.