It’s all about the lucky tekkies

Breast reconstruction is a highly emotional experience. It is process of creating something that resembles a breast but certainly never ever replacing your old breast. 

It’s difficult to explain what it is to create a breast! I know for certain that I cannot do that without my lucky Tekkies! (Asics gel nimbus in pink and grey the 2012 edition.)

This, by itself poses a problem, as it is now 2015 and like your breast, my tekkies are not replaceable. Luckily I have 2 pairs and I am planning on having my sister and my assistant’s (Dr Powel) old pairs.

The choice of breast reconstruction available to you is often made for us depending on your disease and treatment requirements.

For example should you require radiation, prosthesis is not a good option. Not that you cannot radiate plastic, but it is certainly not recommended.

A radiated prosthesis becomes hard and painful due to the scar tissue contracting around it. Having said that, there are cases where we have radiated a prosthesis. It is not our first choice for patients requiring radiation.

For patients that require radiation I prefer to reconstruct the breast with the back muscle. The back muscle is the oldest form of reconstruction that has stood the test of time for a very good reason. As Asics running shoes have been around since 1949 (starting off as basketball shoes), today they are trusted, well renowned and used by most athletes. The Latissimus Dorsi/ back muscle reconstruction is quick, reliable, made of your own tissue and radio resistant. This is the only form of reconstruction utilising your own tissue that can be performed in an average of 133 minutes. This limits your time under anesthesia, aesthetic complications, clot related complications and costs. The use of the Latissimus Dorsi muscle does not result in permanent disability and your other back muscles quickly take over its function. Luckily as the Asics’ first pair of basketball shoes have transformed into today’s gel nimbus, so has the Latissimus Dorsi reconstruction evolved and transformed into a modern form distinct from the historical descriptions and pictures so often seen on the Internet.

I personally perform limited tummy and free flap reconstructions on the basis of possible hernia related complications requiring an additional surgery, prolonged duration of surgery and associated complications and radiation associated changes. But these too are a very good form of “self” reconstruction.

In cases where radiation is not required silicone prostheses are a very good option, especially in cases where both breasts are being reconstructed. The silicone prosthesis gives a good symmetrical result and always leaves your own tissue as back up. However, silicone prostheses are like tyres for your car and sooner or later they will need replacement.

We see patients in 3 groups; those that require replacement within 2 years, those that need replacement in 2 to 15 years and those that never ever require replacement. Unfortunately, no one is able to predict which group you will fall into.

Breast reconstruction remains a process. A process experienced differently by patients. I have great, sweet, “God bless them” patients that have given us their contact numbers so patients can call them about their reconstruction. A common comment I get is that patients report the same operations as a different experience. To me it is very evident that a positive attitude makes the process a totally different experiment.

A-S-I-C-S, Anima Sana In Corpora Sano, “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”

A positive attitude helps a lot in the reconstructive process.

And finally, cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week reduces the risk of breast cancer by 35%. So grab your ASICS and get on the road!

MEET THE EXPERT

Dr Marisse Venter is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Breast Care Centre of Excellence at Netcare Milpark Hospital. She has a special interest in breast reconstruction and cosmetic surgery. She has dedicated her life to the beautifying of women whether that be through breast reconstruction, facial or body cosmetic surgery, and sees it as a tremendous honour to walk the reconstructive process with her patients.

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