Better options for mastectomy and breast reconstruction

The news hit Tracy Cantella like a load of bricks: She had BRCA 1, the gene infamous for greatly increasing a woman’s risks of breDSC02947. Resizedjpgast and ovarian cancer.

She had watched her paternal grandmother battle both, and eventually succumb to breast cancer.

Recalling her grandmother’s ordeal and thinking of her own young sons, Cantella, then 34, chose to have both breasts removed.

“Looking at my future of an 87 percent chance of having breast cancer, or having the surgery and taking that down to a 3 percent chance, I chose to have the surgery,” she said. “I have two sons that are 5 and 3, and I thought, ‘I want to take care of this now. I don’t want to have this hanging over me.’”

Christiana Shaw, M.D., M.S., a UF Health surgical oncologist and an assistant professor, removed Cantella’s breasts in June 2012. She followed skin patterns marked out by Bruce Mast, M.D., UF Health’s chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery and an associate professor. The patterns allowed her to preserve Cantella’s nipples and skin. In the same operation, Mast inserted breast implants.

“I had one single surgery, where I went in with my breast tissue, and then I came out with the breast tissue gone and implants,” Cantella said. “Except for my scars, everything looks the same, and my scars aren’t even that bad. A year later, you can see them, but they’re not horrible.”

The nipple-sparing mastectomy offers patients better cosmetic results and more post-surgery sensation in the breast than other types of mastectomy do. Single-stage breast reconstruction spares patients the ordeal of additional surgeries and the trauma of living without one or both breasts for some period after the mastectomy. The procedure is less than 10 years old and is becoming increasingly popular, said Mast. However, many health care centers continue to offer only multi-stage reconstruction, even for patients who have a nipple-sparing mastectomy done. UF Health began offering single-stage breast reconstruction in 2011.

“Breast reconstruction is usually a multi-staged process,” he said. “But with new and modern approaches such as those offered by UF Health’s breast team, Tracy and others like her can receive complete treatment in a single operation and hospital stay. What a wonderful advancement in care!”