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When Andi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, her first thought was of her two children. Looking back, Andi says, "I was less worried, frankly, about losing my breasts than I was about losing my life and not seeing my kids grow up." Andi took action by learning as much as she could about her diagnosis and her options. "The decision about breast reconstruction... was really the last decision I made, and it was literally the night before my surgery."
Andi's surgeon explained that certain types of breast reconstruction could be performed at the same time as mastectomy. Andi decided upon TRAM flap breast reconstruction because it gave her the option of having a tummy tuck at the same time. She also chose it because "it was something I could do all at once, as opposed to having implants which would require a variety of procedures following my surgery."
At a check-up with her oncologist in 2006, Andi mentioned that she "was not really happy" with the results of her TRAM Flap because there was a concavity on the upper part of her breast. "She highly recommended that I talk to a plastic surgeon because the procedures had improved greatly and there were many more options," explains Andi.
As her oncologist suggested, Andi scheduled a consultation with a plastic surgeon. He explained that he didn't need to create a whole new breast mound – Andi's flap reconstruction had already done that. Instead, he recommended adding an implant beneath the muscle to give more fullness above the breast. "He explained that, using this tissue matrix, he could create a little hammock and put an implant in and give me the fullness that I was missing and was quite confident that I could have a better outcome."
In Andi's opinion, breast implant reconstruction improved her appearance. "I'm thrilled with the results I got," she says. "I was actually incredulous that I could look as normal as I do and feel as comfortable as I am in the clothes that I wear now..."
Andi encourages women who are considering reconstruction to make their decision as early in their breast cancer treatment as possible. In her opinion, the choices a woman makes for breast cancer treatment can have an effect on the outcomes for reconstruction.
The method of reconstruction you choose will depend on a variety of factors. The best way to determine which procedure will best meet your goals is to meet with a qualified surgeon. You can use our Doctor Finder to find a breast reconstruction surgeon near you.
Read the full transcript of Andi's story.