Breast Reconstruction after a mastectomy is typically done with either breast implants, or your own tissue; sometimes these techniques are combined.
Many patients have heard of a ‘DIEP flap’ but are uncertain about exactly what that is. A DIEP flap utilizes your tummy tissue to reconstruct your breast. Some people compare it to a tummy tuck, as the same tissue that is generally removed during a tummy tuck is what is used to reconstruct the breast. However, the actual surgery is very different from a tummy tuck.
In order to do breast reconstruction using your tummy, the extra fat and skin below the belly button is removed, but great care is taken to preserve the small blood vessels that nourish it, so that they can be re-attached in their new home on your chest. A DIEP is a specialized technique that accomplishes this without sacrificing any of your abdominal muscles.
What are the advantages of a DIEP flap reconstruction?
Using your own tissue has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantage of using the DIEP flap for reconstruction is that it gives the most natural possible result, as it is your own tissue and mimics real breast tissue more accurately than an implant can. The other main advantage is that typically implants can be completely avoided which means there are no long-term risks of having an unexpected implant problem. With a DIEP flap, once you recover from surgery, the tissue heals and acts just like your normal tissue – it will grow with you and age with you just as a normal breast would.
Am I good candidate for a DIEP flap reconstruction?
It is important to discuss your goals with your surgeon in order to make sure your reconstructive goals are met while still working within your expectations for your recovery and downtime. Because a DIEP reconstruction is more complex than an implant-based reconstruction, it has more downtime and recovery involved.
Unfortunately, not every patient is a candidate for this operation. For example, if you are very thin, you may simply not have enough tissue to create a large enough breast, or, if you have already had a tummy tuck, then it will generally no longer be possible. There are also safety concerns regarding your general medical health to ensure you are a reasonable candidate as well.
Whether or not a DIEP reconstruction makes sense in your case will be determined as you consult with Dr. Correa.
Dr. Correa’s philosophy on Breast Reconstruction
“Breast reconstruction represents one of the most rewarding aspects of reconstructive surgery, and provides an important ‘silver lining’ to the rigors and hardships of treating your breast cancer.”
Many patients get a referral from their breast surgeon for a plastic surgeon who performs breast reconstruction. However, some patients have undergone their therapy and never had breast reconstruction. Regardless, it is ok to take the initiative and request a consultation directly from Dr. Correa.
Breast reconstruction is a very complex process and it can feel overwhelming to try and figure out what is best for you and what to expect. However, you do not need to do this all on your own and Dr. Correa takes pride in his ability to explain your options in a way that allows you to make your decision with confidence.