The low-down on breast reconstruction

Felicia Yeo-Chua’s husband constantly reminds her that he loves her for who she is, and not how she looks.

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Felicia Yeo-Chua’s husband constantly reminds her that he loves her for who she is, and not how she looks.
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Tried-and-tested breast reconstruction techniques involve artificial implants or a tissue flap from another part of the body – usually the back or tummy area.

“When relocating tissue, a patient can associate something positive with the negative,” says Gleneagles Hospital’s Dr Esther Chuwa. Think of it as a tummy tuck.

But you might want to skip this method if you’re particularly athletic, as mobility restrictions may later surface. For instance, the tummy wall could weaken, or you may experience back pain when skiing or rock climbing.

Newer techniques are geared towards improving these two methods. “‘Gummy bear’ or silicone implants appear softer, more natural, and don’t leak if they rupture,” explains Dr Chuwa. Another improved technique is the soft tissue matrix graft – which uses a surgical scaffold (made from human or animal skin) to cover up a permanent implant. “The graft attracts your own cells to populate the scaffolding.

For implant-related options, we’re always trying to incorporate a more natural method, short of taking another part of your body to cover up the implant,” adds Dr Chuwa.

A good option for lean individuals with little back or tummy fat is fat grafting – fat can be harvested widely from other parts of the body by liposuction. A thin layer of fat can be harvested from the thighs or buttocks to be purified and injected into the chest area to rebuild the breast.

Dr Chuwa, however, emphasises that a double mastectomy does not replace treatment. And on its own, it cannot prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. So consult a professional before making any decisions.

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