Despite the advances there have been in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, hearing that you have the disease is a body blow. Apart from the fact that breasts arguably are a significant part of being a woman, breast cancer still claims thousands of lives every year. While a lot of money and time is devoted to find a cure for the disease, even for those who survive there can be a further mountain to climb as they come to terms with the loss of a breast or even both breasts. The relief of being free of disease can minimise this loss but eventually every woman who has lost a breast will be faced with the question of what they are going to do in terms of restoring the look of their body to what it was before they had surgery.
‘Free-flap’ transfers can offer a patient an alternative to artificial breast implants. During surgery, a section of tissue (fat and skin), along with blood vessels, will be transferred from another part of the body to the site of the mastectomy. The blood vessels in the transferred tissue will then be joined to blood vessels at the site using intricate microsurgery. This will re-establish blood flow, and by doing so will enable the transplanted tissue to survive at the new site.
As with any surgery there can be complications. ‘Free-flap’ transfer complications can include a loss of tissue, necrosis (cell failure), delayed wound healing and congestion of the veins. All of these complications will be directly related to an inadequate blood flow and can lead to repeat operations, prolonged recovery, pain, and scarring – and of course a huge emotional impact on the patient. Unfortunately at the present time, one in ten ‘free flap’ transfers, fail.
RAFT’s Dr Anita Mohan is working in collaboration with Professor Michel St-Cyr, a Professor of Plastic Surgery and a world authority on vascular supply in free flap transfer at the Mayo Clinic, USA.The Raft research into vascular supply uses real-time imaging techniques so that only the most high-quality vascularised tissue is used in the ‘free-flap’ transfer, increasing the chances of tissue survival.
RAFT are also developing a technique to boost vascularity even before the transferred tissue is transplanted to the mastectomy area – that will further increase the blood flow to ensure the best possible chance of a successful outcome for the patient. This research programme is progressing fast and we anticipate that our new surgical techniques for breast reconstruction could be benefiting women from as early as 2017. http://lifeafterbreastcancerfund.org/the-science/
RAFT – keeping you healthier in your world.