It can be a scary experience. Many breast cancer patients undergo surgery to remove part or all of the breast tissue. Doctors say new techniques in the operating room are sending women home with hidden scars after surgery.
“I think when you hear the diagnosis “cancer” your mind immediately goes to the worst place. And you think of these pictures you’ve seen of these horribly disfigured women and again at that time we didn’t have the medicine we have now, we didn’t have the best radiation therapy, everything relied on surgery. So the surgeries were radical and drastic and very disfiguring,” said Dr. David Rock, a breast surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Health.
Dr. Rock says if women have to undergo breast cancer surgery, his goal is to make sure they leave cancer free and confident of how they look. “These women look in the mirror, they have normal lives hopefully after their cancer diagnosis and treatments, and so we want to minimize the impact on them.”
He does this by performing a hidden scar surgery. It’s a way of doing the same cancer operation, whether it’s a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, but hiding the scar so it can’t be seen from the outside. “If it’s a lumpectomy, we use the natural camouflage areas of the breast to hide that scar, whether that’s around the nipple or underneath the breast, or out above the underarm. For a mastectomy we make an incision that’s about two inches long, along where the underwire would be just to the side of the breast and come in and take out all the breast tissue and we try to leave all the skin and even the nipple in most cases and replace that with an implant or the patient’s own tissue,” said Dr. Rock.
Not every patient qualifies for hidden scar surgery, but Dr. Rock says most of his procedures are successful in hiding the scar. “Now because the medicine has gotten so good we can really scale back the surgery. We’re still taking out the tumor. The absolute first goal of the surgery is to take out the tumor and cure the cancer,” said Dr. Rock.
With breast cancer patients living longer, he says it’s important for patients to be able to look in the mirror and not only see a breast cancer survivor, but also a woman.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.