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Posts: 11
Joined: Jan 2001

Hi everone. I am not sure that I have figured out this site yet, so I hope this e-mail goes through ! I was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. I am scheduled for a masectomy in a week and a half. Chemo will start a few weeks after that. I would like any info/opinions from you all on the benefits/drawbacks of two procedures. The first topic is sentinel node biopsy vs a regular nodal biopsy where they remove 2/3 or so of the lymph nodes. The second is reconstructive surgery after the masectomy... I would like to hear from those who had it done, and those who did not. How about those who had the stomach muscle procedure, vs the inflatable implant. Would you all do it again? Were you happy with the results ? What bothers you now about the procedures ? Thanks so much for all your help. I am a bit overwhelmed right now... I am only 38, so this was a bit of a surprise !

Posts: 292
Joined: Oct 2000

Hi there, Tiger here. I dont have personal experiences to all your questions, but I hope I can be of some help. I had a mastectomy Jan/00, no reconstruction, it was all kind of fast and furious and there was no time to schedule it in. They took 17 lymph nodes, tested positive, and later that week ,cat scan showed tumours in my liver as well. The sentinal node biopsy is supposed to be almost fool proof now. That is what most of the surgeons are doing, and there is less recovery time. As for the chemo, you should wait and find out what sort they are giving you, then we will be able to help better. There is usually one standard for breast cancer and everyone experiences it differently, so there is no sense in possibly scaring you away from it. Once you know more, let us know and we can better support you, stay in touch through your surgery recovery, we can help you sort out the emotions you will probably be overwhelmed with, but think of it this way, would you rather have one boob and be healthy, or have two and be in real trouble? Most people have good luck with lumpectomies, but if a mastectomy is recommended because of tumour number or size, well you are better off. Take care and stay in touch.
Hugs from Tiger xo PS, you can check out our personal web pages by clicking onto our name instead of reading the mail.

Posts: 137
Joined: Aug 2000

Hi, I'm Jane. Tiger said it all. Very eloquently I might add. I had a mastectomy in March 1999, then had chemo and radiation. This past year I went through reconstruction, had a free TRAM flap. The free TRAM is using the stomach tissue and muscle and transplanting it to the breast area whereas the regular TRAM is tunneling the tissue and muscle. I would do it again in a heartbeat because it looks and feels very natural. There are fewer problems because your own tissue is being used, and not a foreign substance. I had my unaffected breast removed at the same time as my reconstruction. I did not have reconstruction until after all my treatments were completed. My own personal preference. The chemo I received was Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), 5-FU (fluouracil)and Adriamycin for four cycles. Then I had four cycles of Taxotere. I had a very aggressive, fast-growing, stage 3-A tumor, almost 6 cm in size. After chemo I had six weeks of radiation therapy. I am a survivor. I am cancer-free. Keep in touch with us, and we can help you through this. It's not easy, but having someone to talk to who has been there and really understands what you are saying is invaluable. You will fast become a member of our family. Welcome to our group. Jane

pamtriggs's picture
Posts: 407
Joined: Sep 2000

Hi there. Pam here. I had my initial BC 19+ years ago. I had a radical mastectomy & no positive nodes showed on pathology but here must have been something as I am now in recurrance. I chose not to have a reconstruction as by the time a few months had passed (DIEP FLAP etc wasn't around then)and the thought of another operation & a scar on my back as well wasn't too popular with me & hubby could't care less as long as I was around. Never regretted that decision but then I did not have a model figure to start with. It all depends on your own body image as to whether you go for re-construction or not. Good luck with your treatments & keep us posted. You'l get all the help & info you need here. Love & hugs. Pam

sueholm's picture
Posts: 221
Joined: Oct 2000

hi there... i know nothing about reconstruction, but have read a lot about esntinel nobe biopsy. my understanding is that it is not proven yet by sufficient trilas. Had i been give the option when i had my operation i would have gone for the standard operating procedure, from what i know. hope that helps. i have lobular carcinoma, have had partila mastectomy and just finishing AC chemo. if i can help you at all with that i will be pleased to....where do yu live? i am in canada. love susan

Posts: 165
Joined: Dec 2000

Hi, cher here.
I recieved definite cancer diagnosis on Nov. 17,had bilateral masectomies on
Dec.8, and was considered stage IV (or possibly only III-B) after. I am pretty
well healed from surgery now....they removed 17 nodes (10 on right and 7 on left)
my cancer was both lobular and ductile, some was fast growing and some
was obviously slowgrowing as the same little peanut shaped things showed on
a mammogram 14 years ago and were noted as benign, and never double checked
I have had my first Adriamycin-Cytoxan chemo treatment 2 1/2 weeks ago,
with only a little tiredness as side-effect, but they gave me the top of the line
in anti-nausea stuff since my insurance pays for it.

I have lost some hair (probably as much as on most peoples heads, but since
mine started out so thick I still have another head full to lose) have lots of hads
scarves, a wig, and lots of attitude to to the bare head thing.

With the surgery the main thing is to start the exercises for flexibility as soon as
possible. I was exercising in my hospital bed about 5 hours after being returned
from recovery room. I did a few repititions at least 3 times a day until I got my strength
back and then really tackled them full scale.

An infection and port implant surgery set back my schedule of exercising a little
but I am almost as flexible now as before (except when I bump into my port
button like projection on my upper chest just below the collar bone.

Keep the best attitude you can possibly achieve. I refuse to allow any but great outcomes
so I am doing very well.

By the way, at 54 and short and chubby, I do not plan to have recon.
My flabby boobies were never all that great. I went from2 sunny-side up eggs, to
little droopers in a few months in my late 40's and have no desire to repeat
the performance in my 60's/ Flat is fine with my hubby too. he hates hospitals
and more hates to see me in them.

Just remember, write your fears and troubles. your successes too.

We will be here for you.

We'll pray, laugh, hug, do war dances, whatever it takes.

Battlin' for you and for me, cher

tekgal's picture
Posts: 37
Joined: Dec 2000

Hi ~~ I was diagnosed at 33 one year ago, so feel your anguish. My surgeon was not "sold" on the sentianl node procedure -- "too much chance of it skipping that node" -- so I had 6 removed and, PTL, they were negative. Underwent mastectomy, the 4 rounds of AC treatment. Six weeks after completing chemo, I had a tissue expander placed for reconstruction (implant). Four months after that they replaced the expander with an implant and I am VERY pleased with the results. It is truly amazing! Very best of luck to you!! ~~ Jody (tekgal)

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Posts: 45
Joined: Jan 2001

hi newton, cj here. i'm on the journey thru treatment like most everybody here. i have learned more helpful info here than any doctor, or nurse ever told me. ive had surgery,doing rad now. will do chemo last. this was my choice because i didn't feel i was ready for those chemo changes that happen. there's not one person here that has not been overwhelmed and scared. feel free to ask me or anyone here what ever you want. there's no such thing as a silly or stupid question. i have been lucky to have met such good people here. hugs,cj

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Welcome to the club no one really wants to join, but you will find a lot of support and well wishers here!

I was very young (33) when I was diagnosed and caught totally off guard.  I had Stage 3 A (large tumor and 4 nodes).  That was 26 years ago!   I am still fighting but here.  I had old-fashioned chemo (cytoxan, 5FU and methotrexate), not used much these days.  I had a mastectomy, radiation and 7 years of tamoxifen--all of which gave me an 18 year remission.

I did not have reconstruction with my initial mastectomy.  I waited about a year after radiation and then had the abdominal muscle pull-through done (they take a flap with a muscle from your abdomen and tunnel it with blood vessels attached and pull it up through your chest) .  They weren't doing the free flaps then where they cut the flap free and reattach it using microsurgery on your chest (they pull your sternum up and connect some blood vessels there with the cut vessels on the flap).  This is all a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea.

With my initial reconstruction, I was told that I was not a candidate for implants, because of my large tumor and small breasts.  Also tumor was right up against chest wall, so much tissue and skin was removed that there was nothing to put an implant under.  At the same time as my reconstruction, my plastic surgeon gave my non-cancerous breast an implant because he said he couldn't match breasts otherwise. 

Years later, after 2 sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer, my breast surgeon changed his mind and wanted me to remove my non-cancerous breast.  It did not have cancer and we did mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time (breast surgeon and plastic surgeon working together).  This time, I chose a free flap using a buttock.  the plastic surgeon did not take a muscle--just tissue, skin and a few big blood vessels.  The free flap was much easier to recover from than the pull through.

I chose a free flap reconstruction vs implant,  because the implant that had been placed in the non-cancerous breast was driving me crazy.  After 10 years, it had become hard and painful.  It caused anxiety because I was never sure if the pain was from the implant or possible cancer.  My plastic surgeon told me that implants often do become bothersome after ten years and may need to be replaced.  Being just in my early 40's then, I decided no more implants for me.  Others have had great results with them, but I figured I had a history of pain and hardening after 10 years, I wasn't doing it again.

Hope some of this helps you!  I am not sure what the plastic surgeons are doing these days.  Much depends on geography, it seems to me.  When my sister in San Diego had her reconstruction, she asked about the free flap procedure and was told by her ps that he, although admired and was aware of the work done by my ps, he had never been trained to do it.  She did implants and she has had no complaints.  Good luck!  Big hugs and prayers!!!!


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