Advancements in Breast Reconstruction Techniques

(WTNH)– “You hear the word cancer and everything just kind of stops,” explained Rose Ciardiello. She was just 38 years old when her doctor found a lump in her breast.

“During the exam she said, ‘Oh Rose, how long have you had this lump?’ And I was like, ‘What lump?’” Ciardiello said. Tests confirmed it was cancer.

“My fear was not being here for my kids because they were so young,” Ciardiello recalled.

Her doctors didn’t waste time. Soon after her diagnosis, Ciardiello’s breast was removed and then reconstructed using a tissue expander and saline implant. But the road to recovery wasn’t easy. “About a month into the treatment the incision started to open up, so I had these gaping wounds,” Ciardiello explained. “I developed keloid scars.”

Then, things got worse. A year-and-a-half later, Ciardiello was diagnosed with cancer in her other breast and had a second mastectomy and reconstruction. “I just had issues with healing,” she said. “The incision opened up, so I was left with a lot of scars. I was uneven. There was a lot of scar tissue forming and I put a stop to all reconstruction. I said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.’”

For years, Ciardiello dealt with the discomfort, until she found Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Beth Collins, M.D., who offers a newer breast reconstruction technique called fat grafting. “When you put fat graft in, it’s almost like doing a tissue graft,” Dr. Collins explained. “You take some tissue from one place and you put it in another place and it’ll live on forever.”

Using liposuction, Dr. Collins removed fat from Ciardiello’s abdomen, processed it into a liquid, and injected it back into her breasts. She also replaced rose’s saline implants with new silicone ones. Before the procedure, rose’s skin was paper thin and discolored from radiation treatments, but afterwards? “Right away after the surgery, I noticed that my skin had a pink tinge to it and I hadn’t seen that in like 10 years,” Ciardiello recalled. “It was just white and gray color.”

“This is something that even surprised me in her situation,” Dr. Collins said. “After the fat graft came in, her skin quality improved so much that it pinked up, it looked more healthy.”

Ciardiello says she now has more feeling in her breasts, and her new implants are more symmetric. “I’m not as lopsided … I’m even, so I don’t have to turn away when I walk by a mirror,” Ciardiello said. “I don’t have to spend 20 minutes getting dressed in the morning to make sure the shirt is falling the right way.”

Now the mom can focus on what matters most.

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