Allyn Rose, who competed in the 2013 Miss America pageant as Miss District of Columbia, may not have won the coveted title, but she stole the show anyway. The 24-year-old blond beauty announced that, following the contest she planned to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure to decrease her chances of getting breast cancer. Ms. Rose’s mother, grandmother and great aunt all died from the disease, increasing the odds that she, too, has similar genetic mutations.
While Ms. Rose’s decision may seem drastic, especially for a beauty queen, we are seeing more women making similar choices all the time. For those women with a genetic predisposition to cancer, a preventive mastectomy can be life saving. And, with reconstructive breast surgery, no one else needs to know.
Reconstructive breast surgery at the same time as the mastectomy, has several advantages. First, it means you will undergo one less surgery. There are also psychological and emotional advantages to waking up from surgery already on your way to the new you. Immediate reconstruction helps preserve feelings of wholeness and femininity.
For those who undergo mastectomies to remove cancerous cells, there is an additional reason to have immediate reconstructive surgery before starting radiation therapy. By inserting silicone-based tissue expanders immediately, we can ensure that the tissue is properly stretched to accept future implants, something that might not be possible after radiation.
The initial reconstructive procedure takes approximately one hour per breast. Tissue expanders are inserted beneath the chest muscles and gradually inflated over several weeks in order to stretch the muscles in preparation for implants. A second outpatient surgery is performed three months later to exchange the expanders for permanent implants. That is followed several weeks later by a third procedure to construct the areola and nipple and ensure that the reconstructed breast looks as close to natural as possible.
Breast reconstruction surgery can be an important component of a woman’s physical, emotional and psychological health. As Ms. Rose has realized, it’s possible to take control over your own health.