Straight Talk About Breast Cancer Reconstruction


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Christine Petti shares some information all women should know about her breasts and what actually happens if you have surgery

There are times in medicine that benefit the patient and the doctor when they are the same sex. Male patients often prefer male doctors in areas of prostate cancer, and the same can be said for women and breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of those moments in a patient's life where the comfort level is best served by seeing a female oncologist, and working with a female plastic surgeon together to restore what the cancer has taken away.

Breast Cancer Awareness
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In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Christine Petti shares some information all women should know about her breasts and what actually happens if you have surgery

Dr. Christine Petti, M.D., is a board-certified plastic surgeon with a private practice in the South Bay and Los Angeles area since 1988. She specializes in aesthetic plastic surgery, aesthetic laser surgery and non-invasive surgical cosmetic rejuvenation procedures and as the rare woman in a male-dominated filed, she offers a distinctive female perspective to cosmetic surgical procedures. She pioneered the concept 25 years ago of combining a plastic surgery practice with an on-site, full-service medical day spa, Spa Bella, which she serves as Medical Director.

Dispelling fear, Dr. Christine Petti talks straight about reconstruction and what to expect. "Breast cancer does not seem to have any relation to size of the breast. There are many factors that can affect breast cancer, but breast size is not one of those factors. A lump in breast tissue can vary in how they feel, and be very mysterious at times. In many instances, a breast lump that is cancer is most likely hard or firm to touch, irregular and poorly defined borders, is non-tender and usually does not change in any manner with the menstrual cycle."

There have been times Dr. Petti has discovered cancer in her augmentation patients. "More than once, I have discovered a lump in a patient's breast who came in to see me in consultation solely to discuss breast augmentation. I have also been responsible for the diagnosis of a woman who came to see me for a facelift, when I insisted that she get a mammogram, after I reviewed her health history and saw she checked off that she had never had a mammogram. I said I would not do her facelift until she got a mammogram. Her mammogram had an early breast cancer and she called me crying, and thanking me for helping save her life!"

The reconstruction process is a staged and carefully planned surgery that restores a patient's body which is crucial to mental and physical recovery.

Dr. Petti says, "Any woman who has undergone a mastectomy has had an amputation-she has been stripped of the very anatomy that identifies her personally and to those around her, as a woman. This is devastating on the body and the mind. She is now lopsided, empty on one side and full on the other. She has a flat chest and a large scar to remind her every moment of her day, that she is less than "whole" and "half" a woman. The psychological consequences are overwhelming- and can adversely effect her intimate social relationships and behavior. I have known many women over my own career, who have lost their husbands and/or significant others after a diagnosis and battle with breast cancer and mastectomy."

The realities of mastectomy are life changing. Dr. Petti says, "If this is a full mastectomy, there is permanent loss of sensation with removal of the entire breast. If the mastectomy is partial, the nipple and areolar tissue are maintained, it may be possible to preserve some sensation to the breast. The amount of sensation and the preservation of erotic sensation may vary, depending on the actual location of the breast cancer and the amount of tissue that may need to be removed to attempt an adequate surgical margin to help to cure the woman of the cancer at the primary site in the breast itself."