Breast reconstruction surgeon, Dr. Elisabeth Potter, was recently featured on an episode of More Than Pink, a local podcast by Susan G. Komen, where she shared her plastic surgery experience with DIEP flap breast reconstruction techniques. Using a patient’s own tissue to produce a natural and aesthetically pleasing result, More Than Pink’s host, Suzanne Stone, summed it up beautifully when she stated, “Dr. Elisabeth Potter is on a mission to turn the disfigurement caused by this disease into a distant memory.”
According to Dr. Potter, as recent as ten years ago, breast implants were considered the breast reconstruction industry standard. Women with breast implants, who’d also had radiation, however, were at a distinct disadvantage regarding overall success rate. With a breast reconstruction surgery failure as high as 20%, this plastic surgery option was not always viable for long term satisfaction. And because there wasn’t much data available regarding the use of one’s own tissue for breast reconstruction, breast implants were widely accepted as the common practice.
During this era, Austin plastic surgeon, Dr. Elisabeth Potter, shares that the overall goal with breast reconstruction was to provide a balanced and symmetrical appearance in clothing. Feeling like that end goal was not quite good enough, Dr. Potter committed herself to honing her skills and raising the standard to provide women with breast reconstruction options like the DIEP flap – ultimately allowing patients to feel whole and attractive all of the time with a beautiful, natural-looking result.
Requiring more advanced training, plastic surgeons must undergo a fellowship in microsurgery before performing DIEP flap surgery. Dr. Potter explains that DIEP flap, named for the blood vessels supplying it, uses living tissue to rebuild a woman’s breasts. Essentially, instead of discarding the tissue removed for a tummy tuck, it is transferred, instead, to her chest. The blood vessels are sewn so that the tissue is now living and, unlike breast implants which will eventually require replacement, the tissue will live forever. “I love this surgery. . . . We are proud to offer it.” she said. With a “flatter tummy and breasts that are rejuvenated,” Dr. Potter creates a look that is not obvious cosmetic surgery but, instead, beautifully natural. And the tummy tuck is just a bonus.
When asked about the emotional component of breast reconstruction, Dr. Potter explains that for many of her patients, breast reconstruction surgery has often aided them in moving forward after their breast cancer diagnoses, and subsequent treatments, in ways that are positive. One thing she emphasizes is that it’s never too late to seek breast reconstruction. With the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) of 1998, insurance companies must offer breast reconstruction coverage if they provide coverage for mastectomy and lumpectomy procedures. This includes all breast reconstruction – including symmetry procedures. Dr. Potter explains that many of her patients seek breast reconstruction because of common abnormalities experienced after lumpectomy and radiation, often referred to as breast conservation surgery. Because breast conservation surgery can change a woman’s shape and firmness, she often hears, “I have a hard time wearing clothing because my breasts are not symmetric.” With the WHCRA, Dr. Potter is able to lift the unaffected breast to match the affected one, or if appropriate, fat graft to restore symmetry to the affected breast.
Ultimately, the underlying message, as Dr. Potter explains when referring to breast reconstruction, is that “you have a right to it – to choose or not to choose.” Check out Dr. Potter’s appearance on the More Than Pink podcast.
The More Than Pink Podcast was developed by Susan G. Komen Greater Central and East Texas. It is designed to give listeners an insight on what is happening in the field of breast cancer research, treatment, screening and survivorship. Through each episode, experts in various fields share their knowledge directly with you through guided conversations on a variety of topics.