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DIEP Flap: Breast Cancer Reconstruction Using Your Own Tissue

By Dr. Michelle Lee



When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your world turns upside down. There is so much medical information to understand and consider as you make treatment decisions. Depending on your cancer and its stage, your treatment may include breast cancer surgery and breast reconstructive surgery.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, only 23% of eligible women are aware of the wide ranges of breast reconstruction options available today. Based on The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, all group health plans that pay for mastectomy must also cover prostheses and breast reconstruction.

Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed after a mastectomy or lumpectomy to restore the shape of your breast. Mastectomy is a common procedure to either prevent or treat breast cancer. During this procedure, your breast surgeon will remove a portion or all of the breast tissue depending on the extent of the cancer. When cancer is small, treatment may include a lumpectomy, where only a “lump” or small portion of the breast is removed. Studies have shown that mastectomy can have a significant psychological impact on a breast cancer patient, and breast reconstruction can be highly beneficial in lifting psychological well-being.

Breast reconstruction techniques can be performed with implants or by using your own tissue. An innovative method of breast reconstruction surgery available today is the Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Flap, also known as the DIEP Flap. Using a microsurgical technique; skin, fat and blood vessels are removed from the stomach and reconnected to blood vessels on the chest. Unlike other surgical options, this method of breast reconstruction does not sacrifice the “six-pack” abdominal muscles.

Because skin and fat from your stomach are used to reconstruct your breast, your stomach will be flatter and tighter after the DIEP flap. Similar to a tummy tuck, you will also have a horizontal scar across your lower abdomen. Since no muscle is used/removed to recreate the breast during this procedure, many women will have lower risk of losing abdominal muscle strength compared to the TRAM flap, a more traditional method of reconstruction.

DIEP flap reconstruction is a popular procedure, but is not right for everyone. Those who don’t have extra belly tissue or have had certain abdominal surgeries may need to seek alternative options for reconstruction. It is best to discuss all of your surgical options with your plastic/reconstructive surgeon to find out what is best for you.

For more information about breast reconstruction using your own abdominal tissue, or to schedule an appointment call DMG’s plastic surgery department at 630-545-7875.


Topics and Subtopics: Cancer & Women's Health

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