Surgeon praises technique that combines breast removal, reconstruction: ‘It’s a huge advance’

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A surgeon is Wilmington is praising a procedure that allows a woman with breast cancer to have her breasts removed and replaced in a single operation, instead of two surgeries spread over the course of about a year.

“It’s a huge advance in the treatment of women with breast cancer,” said Charles Kays, DMD, MD. "It’s made this, as one woman once said, ‘This journey of misery a lot shorter and a lot more tolerable.’ "

Kays has been performing breast reconstructions since the 1990′s, and the operation continues to be the majority of his work.

Up until about two years ago, surgeons typically performed breast reconstruction in stages, Kays explained.

“It’s been two surgeries over about a nine to twelve month period,” said Kays. “The first surgery was the insertion of a tissue expander... After about nine or ten months, we would then take the patient back for a second surgery, where we remove the expander and place a permanent implant.”

With the newer procedure, immediate reconstruction, mastectomy and reconstruction are performed during the same surgery.

“It’s been because of the addition of a device called the SPY, fluorescent imaging, and some donated human tissue,” Kays said.

MaryScott Wilson, one of Kay’s patients, had the immediate reconstruction performed on May 1, 2018 after being diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer, stage 2 triple-negative.

“When I went to the hospital, I had two breasts,” said Wilson. “When I left the hospital the next day, I had two breasts. So I never felt unfeminine. I was able to leave feeling good about myself and know that I didn’t have to go through any more surgeries.”

Wilson, a nurse and mother of two, thought the worst when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2017.

“I had myself dead by Christmas last year,” said Wilson. Fortunately with chemotherapy, radiation, and the double mastectomy, Wilson stands healthy today.

The mother hopes that her 15-month-old daughter will know about her mother's strength.

“She will not remember this, and I’m glad she will not remember this, but I just want her to know that her mom fought for her, and she was my inspiration and she kept me going," Wilson said.

Wilson recommends the immediate reconstruction, as opposed to the staged operation, to other women who find themselves hearing the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer.

“With the direct-to-implant, you go in as a woman feeling good and you leave as a woman feeling good,” Wilson said.

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