Celebrity's Breast Reconstruction Focuses Attention on Difficult Choice

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Angelina Jolie's decision to get a double mastectomy underscores the options women have in breast reconstruction, according to physicians in Austin at Synergy Plastic Surgery.

A celebrity's decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy spotlights the difficult decisions many women make on a daily basis around the world, and right here in Austin. At Synergy Plastic Surgery (http://www.synergyplasticsurgery.com), Dr. Mahlon Kerr and Dr. Amy Bekanich point out that several breast reconstruction options exist for their Austin patients, including procedures using the patient's own tissue.

The plastic surgeons say Angelina Jolie's choice to have breast reconstruction performed in phases, using tissue expanders to make room for implants, is only one option. What's most important about Jolie's announcement, both surgeons agree, is that women know they have choices and that advances in breast reconstruction surgery can provide more natural-looking results than ever before.

"Although most of the attention on Ms. Jolie's announcement understandably focused on her decision to undergo preventive mastectomy, women around the world make choices about breast reconstruction on a daily basis," says Dr. Bekanich.

Jolie's surgical approach actually involved three separate surgeries performed during a three-month period, says Dr. Kerr. Her surgeon details Jolie's journey on her blog (http://www.pinklotusbreastcenter.com/breast-cancer-101/2013/05/a-patients-journey-angelina-jolie/).

The first surgery involved excising a small amount of tissue from directly behind Jolie's nipple to make sure there were no cancerous cells there. This procedure is sometimes done when a patient wants her nipple spared during the mastectomy. The double mastectomy occurred about 10 days later, with Jolie's plastic surgeon present to insert tissue expanders before closing the incisions.

Expanders stretch the skin, as more and more saline solution is injected over the course of several weeks. Finally, about 10 weeks after Jolie’s mastectomy, permanent breast implants were placed in the pockets created by the expanders.

That kind of phased approach, however, is not always preferred, Dr. Kerr says.

"A number of women want their recovery to begin when they awaken after their mastectomy, both for aesthetic and emotional reasons," he said. In those cases, permanent implants are placed during the mastectomy in a procedure called direct-to-implant reconstruction. He adds that this option is not always an option for women at the time of mastectomy.

For many of our breast cancer patients in Austin, the idea of additional surgery after undergoing a single or double mastectomy is too stressful," Dr. Bekanich says. "We work with each patient to tailor their specific surgery to meet their goals and with their individual anatomy."

Dr. Mahlon Kerr (http://www.synergyplasticsurgery.com) is a plastic surgeon in Austin, Texas, who offers numerous cosmetic and reconstructive procedures for the face, body, and breasts. After receiving his medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Kerr went on to complete a general surgery internship at University of Nevada and a 5-year combined plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at University of Utah and Huntsman Cancer Center. Dr. Amy Bekanich graduated magna cum laude from Westminster College and went to medical school at Oregon Health and Science University. She completed years of training at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and Huntsman Cancer Institute, followed by fellowships in cosmetic surgery and fat grafting.

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Dr. Mahlon A. Kerr

Dr. Mahlon A. Kerr
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