Sunday, November 01, 2009

Breast Reconstruction Procedure Reaches New Heights

Victory Public Relations
Andrea Samacicia
July 23, 2009

Breast Reconstruction Procedures Reach New Heights

New York City Plastic Surgeon Dr. Thomas Sterry demystifies breast reconstruction

According to the American Cancer Society a staggering 70 percent of women eligible for breast reconstruction forgo it simply because they are unaware of their options. This glaring oversight leaves the roughly 250,000 American women who each year battle breast cancer uninformed about what’s often considered the finishing touch of a treatment plan.

New York City board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Sterry says that even though women feel scared after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and overwhelmed by the treatment that lies ahead, neglecting to discuss reconstruction options serves only to limit her.

“Nearly all the breast cancer patients I work with for reconstruction tell me they were concerned early on about how their treatment would impact their physical appearance, but that those concerns weren’t addressed,” says Dr. Sterry. “The trauma of her battle with breast cancer will be with her always and so will some of the scars, but there is great technology today that makes it possible for pretty much every patient to expect a pleasing aesthetic result after breast reconstruction and it’s important that every patient be educated about it.”

Breast Advice

There are many options for breast reconstruction. Because multiple factors - including the method of treatment, the style of mastectomy, and certain characteristics of each individual patient -determine which option is best, the most successful outcome results when a plastic surgeon is included on the treatment team from the beginning.

“Most breast cancer patients tell me they feel deformed by their treatment, sometimes even comparing themselves to Humpty Dumpty,” says Dr. Sterry, “They feel that after this traumatic ordeal they’re left in pieces and are relieved to learn how they can restore their body to a shape they associate with femininity and health.”

According to Dr. Sterry there are some basic terms associated with breast reconstruction that all patients should be aware of including expanders and autologous reconstruction. Dr. Sterry advises all women to also learn about up-and-coming procedures, including those that use tissue matrices and alternatives to mastectomies also known as oncoplastic surgery, which he believes will eventually dominate the field.

Not your mother’s breast reconstruction: One of the most common complaints about reconstructed breasts is that they more closely resemble “mounds” rather than natural breasts. It has long been accepted that reconstructed breasts are meant to allow women to better wear clothing, including bathing suits, after mastectomy but exciting advances have made it possible for plastic surgeons to more closely replicate a true breast.

* Tissue Matrices like AlloDerm and Strattice have proven vital in enabling surgeons to recreate the most natural looking breasts during reconstruction, says Dr. Sterry. “Essentially what they’ve done is provide patients with an additional layer of tissue, helping us overcome many challenges typically associated with breast reconstruction,” he explains, going on to say the use of tissue matrices grants the surgeon more control over the placement and shape of the breast. “With the assistance of a tissue matrix, which functions essentially as an ‘inner bra,’ the surgeon can better control and predict the long term position of the implant and the shape of the breast.”
* Alternatives to mastectomy comprise a burgeoning field known as oncoplastic surgery, which in some cases can preserve much of the original breast while also removing cancerous tissue. One example of oncoplastic surgery is the growing number of women Dr. Sterry has seen opting for a breast lift procedure instead of a mastectomy. “In the past it wasn’t uncommon for a woman to opt for a mastectomy out of fear, but thankfully we’ve benefited from some advances that allow us to successfully remove the cancer without necessarily eliminating the entire breast. Because of that, breast conservation surgery like lumpectomies and breast lift in place of a mastectomy are increasingly being used and seem to be just as effective,” Dr. Sterry explains. The trick, he says, is to discuss at length with your breast surgeon and plastic surgeon the pros and cons of traditional mastectomy versus oncoplastic surgery.

Oldies but goodies - breast reconstruction for the ages: The standards for breast reconstruction are autologous reconstruction (using tissue from another part of the patient’s body such as in TRAM flap or latissimus dorsi reconstruction), and tissue expansion, where a device resembling a water balloon is inserted under the skin and muscle in the area of the breast and inflated slowly over a few months. Eventually, the expander is removed and a permanent implant is put in its place.

Associated with each of these procedures are complications such as decreased function of the donor site when tissue from another part of the body is used and unnaturally shaped breasts due to the lack of tissue when an expander and implant are used. If the implant is fully shielded by muscle, high-riding, poorly defined breasts often result but when there’s only partial coverage, the risk for “bottoming out,” exposure of the implant, a “uni-boob” and visibility of the implant increases.

In the past women and their medical teams accepted these risks because there wasn’t much else to choose from. Today, Dr. Sterry believes these procedures can be dramatically improved upon by incorporating new technology such as tissue matrices and oncoplastic surgery.

While the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer steadily rises, the rate of death due to breast cancer is on the decline thanks to early detection and improved treatment options, making it more important than ever to consider “after cancer” plans before surgical treatment.

About Dr. Thomas P. Sterry, M.D.

Thomas P. Sterry, M.D. is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Sterry’s extensive training includes a medical degree with distinction in research from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as three-year residencies in both plastic surgery and general surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He holds a masters of Science degree in exercise physiology from Queens College of the City University of New York and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts from Stony Brook University. Dr. Sterry is a clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and has presented his research to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery and the New York Academy of Medicine. His research has also been published in the Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery and the Annals of Plastic Surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Sterry has been in practice in New York City since 2001 is currently in solo practice at his posh Park Avenue office. Please visit to learn more.

For more information please contact:

Andrea Samacicia


(o) 646-351-6703 / (m) 631-759-1512

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