Options increase for breast reconstruction after mastectomy

AURORA, Colo. -- About one in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and many choose to have a mastectomy.

Lenora Cater from Colorado Springs is one of those women.

She was diagnosed 11 years ago, and at the time, her doctor said she was not a good candidate for implants because of her radiated skin.

“She said yeah, you can`t get implants, because your skin is too fragile,” Cater recalls.

So Cater wore a prosthetic on the right side for a decade and grew quite used to it.  But then she learned about the deep inferior epigastric perforators flap procedure that’s now available.

Dr. Tae Chong is a plastic and reconstruction surgeon at University of Colorado Hospital who performed the surgery for Cater.

“You have to cut some of that radiated skin out,” Chong said.  “We just take the blood vessel, the skin and the fat, right around the belly button and a little bit lower, and we move it up.”

The DIEP flap uses the patient’s tissue, but does not involve muscles, like some other surgeries have. That means less pain and a quicker recovery.

“It’s very cutting edge, in the sense that it’s not been widely available in our area,” Chong said.

Surgeons were also able to help Cater with the swelling in her arm from the lymphedema after the removal of lymph nodes.

“It makes life a lot easier,” Cater said.

Now four months after surgery, she is glad she had the reconstruction.

“I'm just getting more and more of my life back as time goes on which is amazing,” she said.