Breast cancer patients have new surgical option

Published: Nov. 20, 2017 at 10:58 AM CST
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Christina Applegate, Kathy Bates, Angelina Jolie, Wanda Sykes, Sharon Osborne, Juliana Rancic.

They are all celebrities. But they all have something else in common. Each one of them had a double mastectomy. It's one option. As Serese Cole reports, a surgeon at Nebraska Medicine says patients now have a new, less invasive option that gets rid of the cancer while preserving their breast.

For a mother, there's no busier or better time.

"I have all these things to I have to do - my kids are getting married," said LeAnn Vinckier.

LeAnn Vinckier was getting ready for her daughter and son's weddings last spring when a routine mammogram - turned out to be anything but.

"I was frozen. I had no idea what to say," Vinckier remembered. "All I thought was get it all off - every bit - go the extreme."

"If they said we have to take your breasts and an eye - I would have said - let's do that," she admitted.

"I think it's kind of the knee jerk reaction to the really scary news," said Nebraska Medicine Breast Surgical Oncologist Jessica Maxwell. "They're worried, 'Am I putting myself at higher risk by not having both my breasts removed'," she said.

Dr. Maxwell says most women diagnosed with breast cancer don't need a mastectomies. There is another option - oncoplastic surgery.

"It's essentially a combination of traditional lumpectomy and some plastic surgery techniques," explained Dr. Maxwell.

During a traditional lumpectomy, a doctor removes the tumor from the breast. But that leaves an empty space - which then turns into a disfiguring divet.

Dr. Maxwell, "Sometimes it's such a defect you can tell in your clothes."

Oncoplastic surgery uses a woman's nearby breast tissue to fill the gap.

So they don't have the divet. Their breast contour is maintained so that when they get dressed -they're symmetrical , they're balanced," added Dr. Maxwell.

Research shows it's just as effective.

"You don't live a day longer if you take both your breasts off," said Dr. Maxwell. "Your recurrence are essentially equivalent."

Dr. Maxwell says women are living longer after their diagnosis and this procedure treats the whole patient physically and emotionally. So when a woman looks in the mirror - they don't have to focus on the scars.

"We don't want people to get dressed every day and think...this is kind of the price I paid for getting through the cancer. You can get through the cancer and still have a breast that looks like a breast... looks like your breast and it's not vain." Dr. Maxwell said.

"I look the same now as when I came in - that's crazy," shared LeAnn Vinckier.

Now after the procedure and radiation...

"I feel normal," Vinckier said.

Normal and cancer free.

The perfect wedding gift for her kids.

While this procedure is becoming more popular in the United States, Dr. Maxwell is the only trained oncoplastic surgeon in Nebraska. She says the surgery is covered by most insurance providers.