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Women’s Health: Reconstruction surgery after breast cancer

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Breast reconstruction after treatment for breast cancer is a personal decision made by women with their team of doctors. There is also both a federal and New York State law requiring most health insurance plans to cover breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.

Albany Medical Center’s Dr. Jeff Kim emphasized that women have the right to choose breast reconstruction after cancer treatment. He says it’s also important for the plastic surgeon to be part of the conversation from the beginning of the treatment plan.

Dr. Kim specializes in breast reconstruction after a cancer diagnosis. He says there are two ways to perform breast reconstruction. Women can get implants or they can get a reconstruction using their own tissue. Dr. Kim says he is able to perform both methods.

While there may be less recovery time for women who chose to get implants, Dr. Kim says women may need future surgeries. He says the recovery time for women who decide to use their own tissue is longer because the site where the tissue is taken from must also heal. However, it produces a more natural appearance, says Dr. Kim.

Along with knowing their rights to breast reconstruction after a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to realize that not all doctors are able to offer both surgical options. Each woman’s case is different and both surgeries may not be an option. It’s why involving a plastic surgeon from the beginning of a treatment plan is imperative, says Dr. Kim.

Types of breast implants

  • Silicone gel
  • Saline (sterile salt water)

Skin flap options

  • Pedicled TRAM flap- uses fat, an entire muscle, and skin from the lower abdomen.
  • Free TRAM flap- essentially the same as a Pedicled TRAM flap but uses a portion of a muscle from the lower abdomen.
  • DIEP flap- uses fat and skin from the lower abdomen.
  • SIEA flap- uses fat and skin from the lower abdomen without the use of muscle blood vessels.
  • IGAP flap- uses fat and skin from the upper buttocks.

*Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons

More information about the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act and New York’s law protecting women who choose breast reconstruction after cancer can be found on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the New York State Department of Health websites.

Watch Christina Arangio’s interview with Dr. Kim

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