Cancer didn't catch Christina Applegate unprepared. Because her mother had battled both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Applegate had been going for regular mammograms since the age of 30. "But when I turned 36, my doctor said that my breasts were just too dense for mammography alone, and he referred me for screening MRIs at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center," she recalls.
Just a few months before she learned she herself had breast cancer, the actor got a shocking insight into the struggles faced...
What Are the Benefits of Breast Reconstruction Without Implants?
The shape, feel, and contour of a breast reconstructed from a woman's own tissue more closely resembles the characteristics of a natural breast.
What Are the Challenges?
Flap surgery is more involved than implant surgery. And, like all major surgeries, you could have complications, such as bleeding, infection, or poor healing.
Flap procedures require a longer hospital stay than implant surgery; on average 5 to 6 days versus 1 or 2 days for an implant.
It leaves scars in the area the tissue is taken from, but they fade over time.
Where Does the Tissue Come From?
The most common flap procedure uses muscle and skin taken from the area below your belly button and above your pubic bone. Muscle, skin, and fat are moved from your belly to your chest. After the flap of tissue is transferred, the surgeon shapes it into the contour of a breast.
If taking tissue from your stomach isn’t right for you, the surgeon may use tissue from your back -- or even your bottom -- to make the new breast.
How Is the Flap Procedure Done?
There are two basic methods for the reconstruction:
Pedicle or tunneling procedure. With this technique, the section of tissue being moved stays attached to its blood supply. The flap has a better chance of surviving because the blood supply remains intact, but the breast may not look the way you want.
Free-flap procedure. With this technique, the tissue being moved is disconnected from its blood supply and then reconnected to vessels in its new location using microsurgical techniques. This is a more complicated procedure. The biggest risk is that the blood vessels may get clogged and the flap might die. The benefit is that the reconstruction looks more like a natural breast.