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Surgery

The New Standard in Post-Mastectomy Surgery

Dallas physicians are among the first in the country to give sensation back to breast cancer patients.

A new surgery technique is allowing breast cancer patients to restore sensation after a mastectomy. Called resensation, it is now available in Dallas-Fort Worth through a limited number of surgeons.

One in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. When women get breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, the focus until now has been on appearance, but the innovative technique is making women feel whole following their bout with cancer.

Stephanie, of Justin, TX, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33 years old. After undergoing 12 rounds of chemo, 25 rounds of radiation, and a double mastectomy, she was grateful to be alive. But the mastectomy left her chest numb. After a mastectomy, many women are faced with a lesser-known issue: numbness that can extend from their belly buttons to their collar bones. About a year later, Stephanie underwent reconstruction surgery.

“If I had to do it again, I would 100 percent do it, because it restored some things, and I didn’t realize how important it was to have those things,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to feel a hug and clothing on your skin.”

Dr. Joshua Lemmon of Regional Plastic Surgery Center in Richardson and Dr. Jason Potter, who has his own practice, are Dallas plastic surgeons who worked together on Stephanie’s surgery. They are also among the first surgeons in Dallas to offer the resensation surgery and hope to bring awareness to this option that could help millions of women.

“There’s only a subset of surgeons who do this type of reconstruction,” Potter said. “If it becomes as successful as we’re seeing in our patients, I think it will become the standard, because losses to sensation in the breast is probably the most significant, lingering deficit for women.”

During a mastectomy, sensory nerves that connect from the brain to the breast need to be cut so that breast tissue can be removed. Resensation uses processed nerves as a bridge to reconnect nerves in the chest to the reconstructed breast tissue. The operation guides regrowth of nerve fibers and, over time, offers the opportunity to regain sensation.

The surgery is becoming more widespread, and Lemmon said this type of procedure is often covered by medical insurance. Stephanie said she’s regained 80 to 90 percent of her breast sensation back since reconstruction. She feels more confident public speaking in her workplace since recovering sensation.

“It’s even knowing that your clothing is starting to shift a little bit. Those are little things that you don’t necessarily think of in your environment, but you can tell those things,” she said. “It’s given me confidence to be able to interact with people, engage in my professional career, and take the next foot forward.”

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