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Hiding the scar

patient and doctor

While we think pink in October, breast cancer does not discriminate, nor choose which month it will strike. It's why we promote new screening and treatment options all year round. All four Methodist hospital campuses now offer 3-D mammography, so doctors have a full understanding and view of the breast tissue. This is especially helpful in younger patients who tend to have dense breast tissue that can sometimes hide a tumor.

Mammography is the first step to detecting breast cancer, and a critical tool, but what happens after diagnosis? Most of us turn to the Internet to research options. Oncologists generally recommend a variety of treatments including: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, but chemotherapy can work throughout the whole body to prevent the cancer from spreading.

There are two basic types of surgery to remove breast cancer. The first is a lumpectomy, which is also called breast-conserving surgery or a partial mastectomy. The second is a mastectomy which removes one or both breasts depending on the location and severity of the cancer.

Unlike a mastectomy, a lumpectomy removes only the tumor and a small rim of normal tissue around it while leaving most of the breast skin and tissue in place. With lumpectomy, the breast looks as close as possible to how it did before surgery with the general shape of the breast and the nipple area kept intact. Sometimes, hard-to-reach tumors have caused surgeons to have to operate through the nipple or in more noticeable places on the breast, leaving large and unsightly scars.

Women are always very sensitive about scarring anywhere on their body, particularly on their breasts, so a device company called Invuity® created intensely-strong lighted, surgical retractors that surgeons can use to make an incision under the arm or under the breast flap to hide the scar. This technology is called Hidden Scar™ and it's been championed within Methodist Health System by breast surgical oncologist Allison DiPasquale, MD, on the Methodist medical staff.

"I learned about this technology in training, and loved the idea of hidden scar and using lighted retractors to ensure that when a patient looks in the mirror she sees herself and not 'cancer'," says Dr. DiPasquale. "It allows me to perform nipple-sparing mastectomies, which is removing the whole breast through an incision in the lower fold of the breast so that the patient is able to keep her entire nipple and skin."

Only you and your doctor can make the best decision about treatment options, but Dr. DiPasquale suggests asking:

  • Am I a candidate for lumpectomy?
  • Am I a candidate for nipple sparing mastectomy?
  • Where do you plan on making the incisions?
  • Do you practice oncoplastic surgery?

Methodist Health System offers a full range of breast cancer treatment options. To learn more, or find a physician, click here.

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