Breast And Nipple Sensation After Breast Reconstruction
The loss of breast and nipple sensation after a mastectomy is not abnormal, but advancements in innervation techniques have proven to restore protective sensation. Depending on the type of breast reconstruction procedure you undergo, sensation in some areas of the breast may be different than other areas. Some sensation may return in time, and some instances, physical therapy may also help.
Return of General Skin Sensation to the Breast Post-Reconstruction
As methods for detecting and treating breast cancer improve with each year, more and more women are now surviving their breast cancer diagnosis. The result has been an increasing interest in survivorship issues and improving quality of life for women after breast cancer surgery and reconstruction.
During traditional breast cancer surgery that removes cancerous breast tissue, the nerve that supplies sensation to the breast is severed, leaving the patient with significant and sometimes complete loss of sensation in the skin of the breast. When a patient undergoes autologous breast reconstruction using her own skin and tissue to rebuild the breast, sensory nerves have been shown to grow into the transplanted tissue from the surrounding mastectomy skin, restoring some sensation to the new breast. However, this nerve growth happens very gradually over time. Therefore, nerve regeneration can be a very slow process and is only observed in about 50% of patients. Since nerve re-innervation is such a prolonged process with unpredictable results, many reconstructive surgeons unfortunately do not consider it to be a priority.
Nerve Regeneration for Breast Reconstruction Patients
At the Center for Breast Restoration, improving patient quality of life after breast cancer is our top priority. Numerous studies have shown that the presence of sensation in the reconstructed breast can improve the patient-rated quality of life post mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
Dr. Spiegel has spent a great deal of time working on improving techniques for restoring lost protective sensation to the breast following mastectomy. Her novel approach to sensory innervation has garnered much attention from the medical community. Her work on sensation recovery with DIEP Flap neurotization was presented at the annual meeting for the European Association of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Spiegel’s commitment to developing new techniques to achieve the most complete form of breast restoration have made her a highly requested speaker and teacher at national and international forums regarding these research topics.