A new surgery combines a tummy tuck with breast reconstruction to help cancer patients feel whole again.
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From Belly to Breast - Rebuilding Breasts After Cancer Melissa Mitaly: Picking the perfect stone, choosing the right bead and putting it all together, it’s a mission of love for Helen Smith. Helen Smith: I’m trying to make it like a breast cancer thing type of thing; just you know my mom died of breast cancer. She got her first lung--sorry I get emotional, so I’m sorry but she was 35. Melissa Mitaly: Helen tested positive for the BRCA gene. Helen Smith: It just like shatters your world just to hear it come out of their mouth. Melissa Mitaly: It means she has an 80% risk of developing breast cancer. That number was too high for her to feel safe, so she had a bilateral mastectomy removal of all of the breast tissue. Instead of traditional surgery, Helen had a new procedure where doctors use fat and skin from the patient’s tummy to rebuild the breast. It’s called DIEP flap reconstruction, or deep inferior epigastric perforators. Doctor Wong Moon: The bony fat is more like breast tissue fat in that sense because it sticks. Melissa Mitaly: The flap is made up of tissue blood vessel skin and fat from a woman’s lower abdomen; surgeons disconnect the artery and veins in the abdomen and then reattach them to the blood vessels in the armpit or chest wall. Doctor Wong Moon: That will basically look and feel like a breast and long term wise it will stay the same. It won't change over time. Melissa Mitaly: Doctor Wong Moon say’s there’s a 5% failure rate if that happens and implant is needed to reconstruct the breast. Doctor Wong Moon: Because if you’ll have blood supply going into the fat, then the fat will die and then basically turn black and then you just remove it. Melissa Mitaly: Recovery includes five days in the hospital and two months at home. Helen Smith: That was still my body, it was still my tissue. Melissa Mitaly: A natural way for Helen to feel like herself again, I’m Melissa Mitaly reporting.