Jamie's Blog

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grow Breasts from Fat: the Future of Breast Reconstruction

A new form of breast reconstruction that allows women to re-grow breasts from their own fat stem cells after a mastectomy could be offered to British and Australian breast cancer patients for the first time in 2010.

A human trial of the new technique is being planned by plastic surgeons at a London hospital. The trial will study whether fat cells can be induced to multiply and fill a breast-shaped mold implanted under the chest skin to recreate a breast after mastectomy. Australian scientists also recently announced that they would start similar treatments on women within six months, following animal studies involving mice and pigs that successfully re-grew breasts from fat.
To read the full story visit the blog of Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, and Twitter friend @mchrysopoulo.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Why some mastectomy patients are denied the best treatment available. HINT: Follow the money.

Research shows that only 25% of patients facing mastectomy are informed about the option of breast reconstruction. In my work in the breast cancer community I have met women whose own reconstructive surgeons did not tell them about these state-of-the-art procedures, even though they lived metropolitan areas where several surgeons did perform them. Since the DIEP procedure has been done in the US for over 15 years and is well known among reconstructive surgeons, what conclusion can we draw except that these doctors choose to keep their patients in the dark in order to keep them in their practices.

The problem doesn't end with physican turf wars: the following article from CancerCompass reveals that "...some insurance companies will discourage a patient from pursuing such advanced options because cheaper alternatives only may be provided by their 'in-network' providers."
Hand me my smelling salts!

The complete original cited in CancerCompass has been deactivated: DIEP And SIEA Microsurgery Flaps -- The Gold Standards In Breast Reconstruction: And Why Insurance Must Cover Them

Friday, July 31, 2009

Is surgery an unkind cut?

A Canadian study found that women who had bilateral oophorectomy had almost a two-fold increase in risk of lung cancer compared to women who had normal menopause.

Let me get this right: we hack off parts of our bodies to prevent one cancer, which then triggers the disease someplace else? Many breast cancer survivors elect to remove their ovaries because of the statistical correlation between the two types of cancer. Having lost both breasts to cancer, I cling to the promise that I have zero risk of more breast cancer, but this research gives me pause. Do I sacrifice my ovaries or my lungs? Cancer really does suck.
To read the entire story about this research on the Caring4Cancer website, click here:
Bilateral Oophorectomy Increases Risk of Lung Cancer

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Facing mastectomy? For those who need help in a hurry. Look under Recommended Reading, Breast Reconstruction Guidebook http://tinyurl.com/yaa8s82

Friday, July 10, 2009

Elective mastectomy—what I wish my doctor had told me.

The diagnosis of breast cancer brings with it an avalanche of decisions, and one of the most difficult is whether or not to remove the unaffected breast. Our hope is that getting rid of the breast will protect us from recurrence, and with advancements in reconstruction, we can look forward to perky, cancer-free breasts. Good as new.


Not really.

No one cautioned me about the impact of nipple amputation on my sex life. No one even mentioned sexual function in any way. I know, it should be obvious that no nipple equals no pleasure. But such obvious things are exactly the kinds of things that don't occur to us when we are scared to death of dying.

When men have prostate cancer the top question they ask is, you guessed it, "Will I retain sexual function?" And a huge percentage of men opt for the less invasive, more risky, treatment in order to preserve quality of life. Why is sexual function not considered an important issue when choosing breast cancer treatment, particularly elective mastectomy?

It never occurred to me, and no one warned me. In all of my research I have never found a woman who was told about the cost of nipple amputation. Some women say, "I wouldn't miss it. I haven't felt my nipples since I breast fed." Others say, "It would be a devastating loss." The point is informed consent-- hear the pros and cons, and make the choice you can live with.

Of the dozens of women with whom I have spoken since my surgery, only one said that someone brought up this issue with her prior to surgery. That is unconscionable, so I make sure to explore the subject with women who contact me. I want to be part of the solution, not just complain about the problem.

I wish someone had done so for me.

For more information about surgical options visit this site~ http://www.sanfranciscodiep.com/reconstruction.html

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Good Grief

Not long ago I opened Twitter to a Blip.fm of Sarah McLachlan's "I will remember you" and choked up. As the song played a well of sadness opened up in me, and I realized how heavy my heart had been all week without me even noticing. What I had noticed was how stressed and overwhelming my life seemed, and that I was tired beyond reason. This poignant song from a stranger on Twitter opened the floodgates, not just of tears (which it did) but of memories I had been holding at bay—that month my hairdresser died at 32, that week my dentist succumbed to a life-long battle with depression, and the 30 year old son of friends died in his sleep.

I did not cry until that morning, and it felt good.

I know better than to bottle up pain. I am a therapist, for crying out loud—grief counseling is one of my specialties! How in the world did I let this happen? In the first place, a degree in psychotherapy does not confer immunity from the storms of life. At best, the hours spent helping people through their Katrinas can teach us what really matters, so we don’t waste energy on the teapot variety. Knowing that, I still allowed this reasonable grief to dam up inside until I found myself on the outside of my life looking in with leaden longing.

Then a dollop of grace fell on my weary mind, and tears gave me strength to feel, and to understand. There is a verse in the Bible that always seemed silly to me: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Be glad when we lose loved ones, for we will be comforted??? That hardly seems worth saying. Then I lost loved ones, and learned that mourning is a funeral every day for months. A card in the mail, a song on the radio, and suddenly we drop into a pool of sorrow. And there are unwanted thoughts of anger and guilt that demand expression. Tears of grief weigh more than mercury, and must flow out—they do not go away, and if denied will crush us from within as surely as a tumor crowds the life out of a liver. This is all part of mourning, the kind that brings comfort. We call it grief work. I was comforted because I finally felt the pain I did not want to feel.

So I say, Blessed are they who do their grief work, for they will find comfort.

PS that stranger on Twitter is now a friend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Depression is a big fat liar

I am no stranger to depression, and I know from both seats in the counseling office that depression lies to us when it tells us to withdraw from others. Hopeless, helpless, and worthless are the mottos of depression, and they are all untrue, but very loud, voices from the pit of despair. That’s why one of the simplest strategies for overcoming depression is to go for a walk with a friend: it combats isolation and, if the walk is at all vigorous, it will flood the parched body with natural morphine. That’s right, our bodies produce endorphins, which are safe*, FDA approved, no insurance needed, free, morphine!

It won’t cure depression, but it is one thing that will help.

*No animals are injured in the production of this natural pain killer: in fact, take Fido on your walk. You will both feel better.