It was standard procedure for married mother of one, Chantal to check her breasts having discovered benign lumps in the past. Her most recent find in her left breast triggered the same routine of medically investigating the new growth. The results revealed that the lump was malignant so in February 2013, Chantal was diagnosed with cancer.
Chantal breast cancer diagnosis was the start of a very 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.
Chantal’s treatment journey began by seeing Consultant Breast Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, Mr Nicolas Beechey Newman, 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 2 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. In the meantime, the biopsy indicated the cancer cell types found in the breast were oestrogen receptive positive along with HER2. HER2 is a protein that can affect the rate of cancer cells spreading. Mr Beechey Newman advised Chantal that the best recommended route would be to undergo a mastectomy to avoid the risk of growth and any recurrence.
Chantal had time to consider the mastectomy option as her next step was for her to undergo 8 cycles of Chemotherapy - followed by a course of Herceptin. Chantal was then referred to Mr Jian Farhadi, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and specialist in Breast Reconstruction at London Bridge Hospital.
After explaining all the various techniques in breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, Chantal decided to remove both breasts to achieve the minimum risk of the cancer reoccurring. Mr Farhadi explained all the various up to date options available and Chantal decided upon the DIEP flap. The DIEP flap is where blood vessels called Inferior Epigastric Perforators (DIEP) 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, Chantal underwent the planned surgery in October 2013 which was then followed by a recommended course of Radiotherapy.
Chantal finished her course of radiotherapy at the end of January this year but continues to take Herceptin treatment for HER2, recommended to be taken over an 18 month period. Chantal is now fit and healthy and is back to work in her role as a Business Auditor for BP.
The most physically and emotionally intensive draining period in her life was punctuated with moments of assurance and positivity with the help of her Consultants. She says, “What really helped was when the Consultant 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 and it brought me focus as well as hope.
Almost a year after her surgery, Chantal says she now reflects that she made the right decision to have a double mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction. She says, “To be honest, 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 - plus the added bonus of having a flatter stomach. 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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