Health Beat: Revolutionary way to rebuild breasts after cancer | Health Beat

25

HOUSTON – Blitz Phillips is a young, newly married nurse facing a bright future, a drastic improvement from eight years ago, when she discovered she carried the BRCA1 gene, and at 26, underwent a double mastectomy.

“Over the course of your lifetime, your risk is about 95%,” Phillips said.

Or, as she said, it wasn’t a matter of if she would get breast cancer, but when. Blitz turned to Dr. Aldona Spiegel, who patented an internal reconstructive surgery procedure that includes an internal dermal brassiere.

“We have these beautiful young women who now are diagnosed with BRCA and need to have a preventative mastectomy,” Spiegel said.

“It affects your relationships,” Phillips shared. “It affects how you look at yourself in the mirror. It affects everything mentally and physically.”

In high school, Spiegel designed her own prom dress with a fitted bodice. She modified that to create a tissue graft with collagen that conformed to the body.

“So, using this combination of collagen, which acts like an internal brassiere that holds the implant, in a way that is above the muscle and isn’t deformed by the muscle, allows a direct implant reconstruction for women, like Blitz,” Spiegel explained.

Spiegel uses specially designed tools, so the implants don’t hurt post-surgery.

“She’s avoiding putting the implant under the muscle,” said Phillips.

“It’s really a marriage of art and technique and creativity,” Spiegel detailed.

“I had the opportunity to make a choice before cancer made it for me,” Phillips said.

Spiegel said the emotional component of this groundbreaking surgery is just as important as the operation itself. She travels the world teaching the procedure to other surgeons and encourages cancer patients to explore all of their options before making a decision.