Buddy Check 7: Advancements in breast reconstruction

Published: Dec. 7, 2018 at 9:44 PM CST
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As an oncology nurse practitioner at Marshfield Clinic, Jessica Engel knows the ups, downs, ins and outs of breast cancer.

Not only does she work with those battling it, she is a two-time cancer survivor herself.

At just 18-years-old, Engel beat Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Fast forward years later to October of 2017, and she was diagnosed again, at the clinic where she now works, with breast cancer.

"I meet people and inevitably we end up in that moment where-oh you have that-I have that," Engel described.

"And then you share something and it's like, you know, goodness. They tell you that they're ten years out and you think, oh wow, you know, that just feels really good to know somebody who had an experience similar to mine and they're doing fine," she said.

Engel has a positive disposition about the whole thing.

Maybe because she knows, she's receiving some of the newest and most advanced options out there when it comes to breast reconstructive surgery.

Dr. Michael Harl explained some of the techniques used during Engel's breast reconstruction, "That is using liposuction to remove fat from a patients abdomen, and injecting that under the mastectomy skin flap, that has received the radiation can restore the health of that skin so that it behaves like tissue that never received radiation."

In just the past 5 years or so, major changes have been introduced in the form of fat grafting, which Dr. Harl says is a major advancement. It helps patients look better on the outside, but the benefits go much further.

"Breast reconstruction is not just about appearance but it's also about the physiological well-being of the patient. They feel more whole after undergoing breast reconstruction but it also effects their ability to wear clothing, and to have symmetry and to be balanced," Dr. Harl said.