Monday, January 30, 2017

Women warned of post-mastectomy risks

Reconstructive surgery can numb breasts, cause pain and become potentially perilous

Reconstruction, according to The New York Times, can lead to complete numbness in the breasts.

An article by Roni Caryn Rabin yesterday contends that doctors often fail to warn patients that although reconstructive surgery following breast cancer might save their nipples and keep their breasts natural-looking, they afterwards may be unable to "sense the slightest touch of [their] breasts, perceive warmth or cold, feel an itch if [they have a rash or pain if they bang into a door]."

And nipples may "lack any feeling."

In addition, sexual arousal may not be restored.

Rabin's story indicates that "plastic surgeons performed more than 106,000 breast reconstructions in 2015, up 35 percent from 2000."

Most often, they use a woman's belly fat to create a new breast.

The lack of sensation "is potentially dangerous," the story charges. "Women who have had mastectomies and reconstructive surgery have sustained severe burns on the breasts from heating pads, hair dryers, curling irons, sunbathing and overly hot showers."

Dr. Andrea L. Pusic
And although the surface of the skin may become numb, pain underneath still may radiate everywhere: 

The Times piece notes that some women have tingling sensations after the surgery, others have "debilitating pain."

The "post-mastectomy pain syndrome," the story maintains, "is fairly common, affecting anywhere from 25 percent to 60 percent of mastectomy patients, according to published studies."

The Times article quotes Dr. Andrea L. Pusic, a plastic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who specializes in reconstruction and studies patients' post-surgery quality of life, as admitting that "our focus has been on what women look like. What it felt like to the woman has been a kind of blind spot in breast surgery. That's the next frontier."

Reconstruction and other post-surgery treatments are dealt with in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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