After going through the trauma of breast cancer itself and having a mastectomy, women's options for breast reconstruction often don't feel like options at all. And far too many breast cancer survivors have become victims of botched reconstructions that doctors try to pass off as "amazing." That's why Suzanne Somers, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, felt compelled to pass on the options offered to her and most women -- implants (plural, meaning they would have to also remove her healthy breast) or a TRAM flap, a procedure that uses muscle, fat, and skin from the abdomen to create a new breast. Now, in the latest installment of her CafeMom Studios series, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through, the actress, author, and activist tells the story of her brave exploration of another route: stem cell breast reconstruction.
It's a controversial procedure that hasn't been given the green light in the U.S. yet -- for various reasons.
Basically, during the procedure, fat from another part of a woman's body -- along with a high concentration of her very own stem cells -- are injected into the breast. Stem cells are thought to help preserve and even regenerate fat cells by stimulating growth of blood vessels. But the controversy has been linked to worry that fat can "calcify" in the breast and obscure mammograms or possibly be mistaken for fibrous cancer growths. Oh, and of course, there's constant tongue-clucking from conservative America about the use of stems cells in the first place.
So, as you can imagine, Somers had to fight and jump through hoops for her chance -- and in turn, other American women's chance -- to have her breasts reconstructed in this innovative, still experimental way. She had to do it through a clinical trial, and she became the first woman in the U.S. to have the procedure. Check out the video of her telling (and showing) her story. (Warning: It's a bit graphic, but truly fascinating!)
Suzanne and the other women's stories bring you to tears, right? Me too ... It's absolutely astonishing to see how this procedure works. But as emotional as it made Suzanne and as it should make any woman, the fact that this isn't already our first line option for breast reconstruction is also truly maddening. Breast cancer survivors deserve better. With hope, Suzanne's journey will pave the way for American women to have better without delay.
What do you think about Suzanne's story and this possible option for breast reconstruction?
Image via YouTube