When Marlene Rose went for a routine mammogram, it turned out to be anything but routine.
First, her radiologist said more images were needed. Next, she was told she should undergo an MRI, and then a biopsy.
When Marlene heard the results of all this, she remembers she went into shock. “I kept saying to myself, ‘Did he really tell me I have cancer? Am I really going through this?’”
But she needed to get herself to focus pretty quickly. There was a big decision that needed to be made: Should she have a lumpectomy or mastectomy?
“Dr. Alan McClelland explained everything to me in full detail,” Marlene says. “After weighing my options and talking it over with my family, I chose a full mastectomy and reconstruction. All I could think of was, ‘I don’t want any chance of this spreading.’
Dr. McClelland, a surgeon at Baystate Franklin Medical Center, referred Marlene to Dr. Ben Schalet, a Baystate Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery specialist. Dr. Schalet told her she would be a great candidate for a new procedure called DIEP.
Deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) artery flap is a muscle-sparing procedure that allows women recover more quickly from breast surgery, as well as lowering their risk of losing abdominal muscle strength compared to other flap procedures.
During DIEP flap surgery, an incision is made along the bikini line and a portion of skin, fat, and blood vessels are taken from the lower half of the abdomen, moved up to the chest, and formed into a new breast. The tiny blood vessels in the flap of the new breast are then carefully reattached.
By not cutting any abdominal muscles, this procedure helps preserve the strength of the abdominal wall. Plus, no mesh material is required to support the abdomen, minimizing the long-term effects on the patient’s ability to get back to normal activities.
In addition, since most patients’ excess body fat is around their waistline, this procedure helps reduce the abdomen much like having a tummy tuck does. (For patients with little to no belly fat, the back or buttocks tissue can be used.)
Dr. Schalet says DIEP was just the right solution for Marlene, but every patient’s situation is different. “Every patient has a different set of circumstances,” he says. “I can make recommendations, but in the end, it’s the patient who decides what’s best for them.”
With the DIEP flap procedure, according to Dr. Schalet, the patient invests a little bit more time in the beginning but isn’t faced with multiple procedures down the road. Also, by using the patient’s own tissue, there is a better match their body type.
“For many,” Dr. Schalet says, “DEIP is the gold standard for long term breast reconstruction care.”
Marlene agrees. “The great thing about DIEP is that by investing my time now, after the surgery was over, I was all done, which is not the case with implants.”
Marlene is also thankful about the level of care she received. “The continuum of care from all the Baystate experts was great,” she says. “Dr. Schalet came from Springfield to Greenfield the day of my mastectomy and readied me for my reconstruction. Everyone was great to me and my family. They gave me all the time I needed and took great care of me. Now I can get back to work, and back to riding my horse, Bailey.”
For more information call Baystate Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at 413-794-5363.