Deciding upon which type of reconstruction surgery to have after losing part of your breast, or all of it, or both of them, to breast cancer is often very difficult, so I decided to devote all of my blog posts this week to a discussion of the various types of reconstruction surgery that are available, together with a little feedback from women who have undergone each type of surgery.
The Latissimus Flap
The latissimus flap is a pretty standard breast reconstruction method, first utilized way back in the 1970’s. Your surgeon will take a flap from your latissimus dorsi muscle (located on your back), with or without attached skin. The flap is elevated off of the back and brought around under the skin under your arm to the front of the chest wall. The main vessels remain attached to the body to ensure proper blood supply to the flap. The latissimus flap provides soft tissue to allow complete coverage of an underlying implant if one is utilized.
The latissimus flap is most commonly combined with a tissue expander or implant, to give the surgeon additional options and more control over the aesthetic appearance of the reconstructed breast. This flap provides a source of soft tissue that can help create a more natural looking breast shape as compared to an implant alone. Sometimes, for a thin patient with a small breast volume, the latissimus flap can be used alone as the primary reconstruction without the need for an implant.
The latissimus flap can be used for reconstructing one or both breasts. You will have a horizontal scar (although some doctors create vertical scars) running under your shoulder blade on the reconstructed side, approximately 5″ long.
Length of Surgery: for one breast, 2-3 hours (this may vary according to your surgical team).
Hospital Stay: 1-3 days
From A Practical Point of View…
After this surgery, it’s normal to have some restriction of range of motion of the arm on the affected side. Also, because you now have muscle tissue in your new breast, when you contract your latissimus dorsi muscle, you will feel your breast contract as well. This may annoy some women. I chose this type of reconstruction for myself and I’m used to the muscle contraction now – it’s a great party trick (lol).
Some survivors say they wish they had never chosen this surgery because they have suffered from a great deal of post-surgical back pain, presumably there was some nerve damage done. For myself, I have experienced no such problem. I have had to be extremely proactive with stretching and yoga to regain my muscle strength and range of arm motion, as well as a particular type of massage to reduce adhesions from scar tissue. Since I’m a massage therapist, I created a video to explain the procedure so others could get their massage therapists to do this for them.
One further thing I have noted – the area around the scar on my back is still numb, eight years later, and it itches sometimes. It’s also numb along the side of my body over the area where the tissue wraps around and I have a lot of loose, slack skin on the side of my body where the muscle wraps around. If I were younger and worried about such things, I might need a further surgery to correct that.
All in all, most survivors who chose the latissimus flap reconstruction were happy with their surgeries. Here’s an inspiring YouTube video of a woman who underwent this type of surgery.
My suggestion? Make sure you discuss your options thoroughly with your surgeon so that you know all of the pros and cons each type of reconstruction surgery will entail and choose the one that makes sense for you and your lifestyle.
If you choose to have reconstructive surgery, please read my article Tips For Surgery – Useful Items to Take With You. Another article that might be helpful: My Top Favorite Things to Promote Surgery Recovery.
Reference: breastreconstruction.org, breastcancer.org forums
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). When you’re in a desperate situation, you need an ally. You can depend on me to help you through this.
I had breast cancer in 2004, and I chose to have the latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstruction surgery following upon my lumpectomy surgery because my surgeon found it necessary to remove quite a large chunk of my breast. I am also a massage therapist and I have a great massage technique that will reduce surgical adhesions after breast reconstruction surgery, and I’m excited to be sharing that technique with you today.
I began having some issues with tightness and soreness around the scar and, knowing that adhesions might be forming at the surgical site, I had my own massage therapist perform this massage technique on me. I found it to be absolutely crucial to my ability to move without pain and to reduce post-surgical adhesions, so I shot this video today to help you (with the help of my friend, Robin, who is the person on the massage table – thanks Robin!).
If you can get your massage therapist (or even your partner or willing friend) to watch the video and learn how to do it, you will feel so much better for it.
I didn’t mention it in the video, but I only use therapeutic grade essential oils to do this procedure. They are much more effective and potent than the oils you can buy in the health food store. You can get them from me and if you’d like more information about the oils, just contact me.
If you would like to receive my best tips on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
If you’ve just had a breast reconstruction and your surgeon utilized the Latissimus Dorsi Flap procedure, you’ll want to know about this helpful yoga position called Balasana.
Once your incisions have healed, the drains have been removed, you are no longer sore and your surgeon says it’s okay, I recommend doing this yoga position just as soon as you can manage it.
Click here to see the video (skip the ad!).
Don’t worry if you can’t get into the position initially, it’s most likely something you can work towards. Just go as far as is comfortable for you on the day.
Why To Do It!
While this type of breast reconstruction surgery can be wonderful and give you back your figure, it can provide problems.
This surgery can really curtail your range of motion on the affected side if you are not proactive.
I found this particular yoga position so beneficial because it’s gentle, it really helped with my range of motion, it cuts down on adhesions (which can be caused by the newly formed uniting tissues – adhesions can block circulation and cause pain, limited movement, and inflammation) and really helps you to reclaim your body.
I also found deep tissue massage to be extremely beneficial.
Do this yoga position at least 5 times a week! It doesn’t take long, and it really does help so much. May it be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship between you and yoga.
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