Ms Colthorpe received a breast cancer diagnosis, which was the start of an anxious journey. However, the latest techniques have proved that there are now more options available for breast cancer survivors in terms of treatment and breast reconstruction. She first discovered a malignant lump in February 2013 and was diagnosed with cancer. Following this, it became a standard procedure for her to have her breasts checked; however, her most recent discovery of a new growth in her left breast triggered the same routine. The patient began treatment by seeing Consultant Breast Surgeon, Mr Nicolas Beechey-Newman, at London Bridge Hospital.
Mr Beechey-Newman was one of the first surgeons in the UK to perform the latest technique in breast cancer surgery, called Sentinel Node Biopsy. This technique analyses the first in the chain of lymph nodes where the cancer is likely to spread, providing an indication of the prognosis and thereby establishing the recommended treatment route without having all the lymph nodes removed. Despite undergoing two lumpectomy procedures, one in March and the second in April 2013, the results showed that the cancer was more widespread than it had appeared on the scans. Mr Beechey-Newman advised Ms Colthorpe the recommended route would be to undergo a mastectomy to avoid the risk of growth and any recurrence. The patient had time to consider the mastectomy option, as her next step was for her to undergo eight cycles of chemotherapy followed by a course of Herceptin. After this, she was referred to Mr Jian Farhadi, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and specialist in breast reconstruction at London Bridge Hospital. After careful consideration of the various techniques available in breast reconstruction following mastectomy, she decided to remove both breasts to achieve the minimum risk of the cancer reoccurring. Mr Farhadi explained all the various options available and it was decided the DIEP ap would be most suitable. The DIEP ap is where blood vessels called Inferior Epigastric Perforators and the skin and fat connected to them are removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the chest to reconstruct a breast after mastectomy.
After leaving some time to recover after chemotherapy, the patient underwent the planned surgery in October 2013, which was then followed by a recommended course of radiotherapy. Ms Colthorpe finished her course of radiotherapy at the end of January 2014, but continues to take Herceptin treatment. This physically and emotionally intensive and draining period of her life was improved by the reassurance and positivity of her Consultants. She says “what really helped was when Mr Farhadi thought it was a good idea to put me in touch with another patient who had been through the same treatment plan. It helped me to put it all into perspective and provided me with a sharper vision of normal life after breast cancer. It brought me focus as well as hope.” Almost a year after her surgery, Ms Colthorpe says she believes she made the right decision to have a double mastectomy and DIEP ap reconstruction. She is now fit, healthy and is back to work in her role as a Business Auditor. She says, “regardless of all the advice, testimonials and research on the surgery, for me, the outcome was still much better than I expected. Above all, I wanted my new breasts to feel comfortable, so having the tissue replaced by another part of my body was the best method. However, I feel one of the most important decisions I made was to regularly check my breasts and promptly pursue medical treatment – the earlier the better.”
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