Renee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and had to endure chemotherapy, many surgeries, and a multitude of treatments. The radiation from one of the treatments harshly affected her breast, and she needed to have a mastectomy.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing Renee’s breast cancer survival story and how we were able to reconstruct her right breast—and build her self-confidence—using the Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) flap procedure.
How Radiation Affected Renee’s Breast
Renee had a 3 cm tumor in her right breast and faced it head-on. She underwent chemotherapy, a lumpectomy, and 22 rounds of radiation treatment. Unfortunately, the side effects of radiation took a toll on her breast and she developed tissue necrosis in the remaining breast tissue. Tissue necrosis is the death of body tissue, and it occurs when too little blood flows to the tissue. The damage caused can’t be reversed.
“The necrosis caused hardening, shrinkage, and discoloration in my right breast,” Renee says. “The breast was painful and unsightly, so it was the consensus decision of my oncologist and my breast surgeon that I should have a mastectomy.”
Finding a Solution
Now that Renee had plans for the breast tissue to be removed, it was time to find a solution.
“I didn’t want normal implants. I wanted to use my own tissue, if at all possible,” Renee says. “My breast surgeon, Dr. Squires, recommended Dr. Bajaj, who just happened to be the same surgeon my co-teacher and friend had used for her surgery. I was excited and felt like I already knew her work.”
About the DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Surgery
The DIEP Flap surgery was the perfect procedure for Renee, especially because it involved using her own tissue. DIEP Flap is a type of breast reconstruction procedure that removes tissue from the abdomen to rebuild natural breasts without the need for synthetic implants. The DIEP Flap procedure utilizes fat, tissue, and blood vessels from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast.
“The pre-surgery paperwork was informative and thorough,” Renee says. “I felt nervous but prepared because Dr. Bajaj’s office was fantastic about keeping in touch with me and explaining everything as it was going on.
“Dr. Bajaj made me feel like my weird, misshapen boob was no big deal and could be replaced. It was comforting to know she had done this before, and I was not the only one to ever suffer from this type of radiation response.”
Dr. Bajaj performs the DEIP Flap procedure under general anesthesia at St. Anthony Hospital. She has performed over 500 DIEP flaps and performs over 45-50 DIEP flap breast reconstruction cases annually, which places her and St. Anthony Hospital at the level of a high-volume center with excellent outcomes.
Finding a Sense of Normalcy
Renee had the mastectomy and DIEP Flap breast reconstruction surgery in April of 2019 and is thrilled to have her body back.
“Dr. Bajaj did amazing work!” Renee says. “She even managed to get the stretch marks on my abdomen to look natural on my breast. Her staff was kind and supportive and I think the world of all of them.”
After returning in September to adjust symmetry after healing, Renee now has a fresh outlook on life.
“Yes, baby, I’m back! I have two matching boobs, two nipples, no belly flap, and I’ve got a fresh start at 52,” Renee says. “I’m pretty pumped!”
Helping Renee gain a renewed outlook on life after surviving her battle with breast cancer fuels our passion to continue to help more women in similar situations. At Bajaj Plastic Surgery, we strive to help our patients feel beautiful, confident and to feel proud of the battle they have won.