AUSTIN (KXAN) — One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. The choices after treatment can involve reconstructive surgery. That has traditionally involved artificial implants, but there is an alternative.
Seton’s Breast Care Center, now in its eighth month, offers the latest refinement of an all natural, microscopic, minimally-invasive procedure called DIEP Flap. One of the first Austin patients to receive DIEP Flap at the center says she is feeling great and ready to get back in the saddle, literally.
Fifty-one-year-old Anita Arnet is a barrel racer when she is not working as a Williamson County truant officer and she can’t wait to get back on her beloved, and playfully named, “Pokey”. A self exam caught her cancer, and after difficult chemotherapy, she was ready to consider reconstruction this spring. That is when she learned about Seton’s natural DIEP Flap procedure.
“It is lifelong and natural,” explained Dr. Elisabeth Potter, a plastic surgeon at the Breast Care Center. “Whereas an implant reconstruction will have to be maintained over many years and it is a medical device, it has a lifetime of about 13 years. Your flap reconstruction will gain weight with you, lose weight with you, it’s all natural.”
Arnet was sold. “I wouldn’t have anything foreign in my body. I was tired of having everything that was foreign in my body, from the medicine to the portacath to everything. This just sounded like a great idea.”
DIEP Flap uses skin and fat from your abdomen, with the added benefit of acting like a tummy tuck. Arnet’s eight hour surgery was a success.
“When I woke up I saw Dr. Potter’s smiling face and I felt pretty darn good,” she recalled.
Generally, the purpose of reconstructive surgery is to make a woman feel whole again, soft, feminine and natural.
“Anita is a natural woman and we gave her a natural breast,” Potter says.
Anita is back at work now and back with Pokey. “About two weeks ago I was able to saddle a horse again and get used to the weight from the saddle and that was everything in the world to me,” she said with a smile. “I am getting stronger every day.”
She plans her first return to barrel racing next week.
Thanks to the 1998 Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, reconstructive surgery is covered under your medical coverage like other medical procedures, minus whatever deductible you have. Doctors recommend a mammogram once a year for women over 40 and they also recommend a self exam every month.
Since the Breast Care Center opened in February 2014, it has provided a thousand tests for women, using the latest and more precise 3-D mammogram.