Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among women. This diagnosis often requires breast removal, otherwise known as a mastectomy. Today, a woman can opt for a nipple-sparing mastectomy with breast reconstructive surgery scheduled approximately two weeks later instead of months later, as with traditional breast reconstruction surgical techniques. 

Emotional Impact of Undergoing a Mastectomy

In the past, women had to live with the loss of their breasts with significant scarring. The mastectomy can lower a woman’s confidence in her appearance and plummet her self-esteem and sense of identity.

Women traditionally had to experience the discomfort of the surgical site while waiting for tissue expanders to stretch the breast skin and then be replaced with implants over a period of months. Patients often report feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, and significant emotional turmoil that impacted their lives negatively.

How a Nipple Sparing Mastectomy Can Improve Breast Reconstruction

There are several different approaches to mastectomy surgery. The method your breast surgeon uses to perform the mastectomy can impact your options for reconstruction, so it is essential to research options before surgery. You should talk to your oncologist, breast surgeon, and, if interested in reconstruction, plastic surgeon before any surgery occurs. 

In the past, many reconstructive techniques involved flap procedures with long, complicated, and multiple breast reconstruction operations down the road. While these procedures still exist, mainly at large medical centers, there are more modern and aesthetically pleasing options for some patients. 

As an alternative to flap procedures, a tissue expander can be placed during the mastectomy to give the breast skin and tissue time to develop a better blood supply. Currently, this is a popular treatment by reconstructive surgeons. However, tissue expanders require weekly visits to the doctor for saline injections to stretch the expander and, therefore, the skin. Patients report discomfort as the tissue expander sometimes rubs against and places pressure on the sensitive surgical site. Months after the expander is placed, it is swapped out for the final implant. Depending on the individual situation, some expanders remain in place for up to a year post-mastectomy.

Today, women can opt for undergoing an initial nipple-sparing mastectomy and be able to have final and complete breast reconstruction surgery approximately two weeks post-mastectomy. Discovered and initially published by board-certoified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Zenn of Raleigh, NC, this method has been patented as The Zenn Delay. Reconstructive surgeons around the world now use the technique.

The Purpose Behind This Cutting-Edge Approach

A woman who undergoes a mastectomy due to cancer is often embarrassed by how she looks in clothes without breasts. Previously, surgeons would wait for weeks or months before allowing the patient to undergo the breast reconstruction phase to replace that lost breast tissue volume.

Now, a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction surgeries has discovered that there is no need to wait for so long. Dr. Zenn discovered that the skin and nipple tissue develope adequate blood supply channels in approximately two weeks. As a result, mastectomy patients can heal with less discomfort without the tissue expander placement. Additionally, they can begin (and end!) their breast reconstruction surgery two weeks after the initial mastectomy operation. The cosmetic results are very natural looking.

Why Plastic Surgeons Are Using Tissue Expanders Less

Even though the use of tissue expanders after a mastectomy has been the gold standard treatment for years, more plastic surgeons today are beginning to use this approach far less than before. Like many things in healthcare, using tissue expanders as part of the breast reconstruction process has its share of drawbacks. These drawbacks include:

  • Tissue expanders cause discomfort against sensitive surgical site incisions 
  • Requires weekly trips to the doctor’s office to expand the device over several months 
  • Over time, breast skin can lose its normal appearance and characteristics like contraction due to the expansion process along with skin elasticity changes 
  • Original nipple position may change during the expansion phase, and it is difficult to then get a natural-looking breast during reconstruction 
  • Takes too long for final reconstruction 
  • Hard to find clothing that fits well during tissue expansion, which can affect a woman’s body image 

Benefits of Breast Reconstruction Via the Zenn Delay

There are many benefits to choosing the Zenn Delay technique for your breast reconstruction. This innovative surgical technique allows women previously not considered ideal for certain breast reconstruction procedures. These women include:

  • Women who had previous breast surgery
  • Larger busted women 
  • Women who underwent irradiation for cancer treatment

Find Out if the Zenn Delay Technique Is Right for You

Many consider the Zenn Delay the best way for mastectomy patients to return to their normal body appearance as soon as possible. And with minimum discomfort. This novel approach to reconstruction surgery of the breast allows more women to have this life-changing surgery safely, quickly and with beautiful results.

For additional details regarding nipple-sparing mastectomy, breast reconstruction surgery, and Zenn Delay, or to view Dr. Zenn’s groundbreaking surgical technique visit anytime online. Call our friendly staff at Zenn Plastic Surgery in Raleigh, North Carolina, for more information or to schedule a consultation.

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