Advances in reconstructive surgery

When Tommi Peterson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, as a nurse, all she could think of was the patients she took care of in the 1970s – women who’d felt disfigured after having radical mastectomies to remove all of their breast muscle and tissue.

“I wasn’t aware of all the choices available to women today,” said Peterson of Burlington Township, N.J.

But Peterson learned that the treatment, surgeries and implants have all come a long way.

Up until the mid to late 1970s, most women had one or both breasts surgically removed to treat breast cancer. If they wanted their breasts reconstructed, patients had to be cancer-free for five years first, said Dr. Brian Buinewicz, chief of the division of plastic surgery at Abington Memorial Hospital.

Now, besides having the option of a lumpectomy to remove just the cancer, women can have a simultaneous mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. And surgeons can reconstruct a breast using implants or a person’s own tissue, Buinewicz said.

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