NEW ORLEANS -- A story on the New York Times opinion page has touched people around the world, not only because of who the writer is, but also because of the topic.
Actress, director and philanthropist Angelina Jolie revealed she had a preventive double mastectomy.
Jolie said she had the surgery after testing positive for a gene mutation that greatly increases her risks of getting breast cancer.
It's a procedure that people from around the world come to New Orleans to have.
For many years, women have been making the difficult decision as Jolie has: Save my life for my children, or save my original breasts. Many choose the chance at a longer life.
"Her genetic testing implied that she had a five times or more greater chance of developing breast cancer than the general population. The preventive mastectomy she just underwent reduced her likelihood by 90 percent," explained Dr. Frank J. DellaCroce, a plastic surgeon and co-director for The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery.
Dr. DellaCroce has women come in from around the world for mastectomies and reconstruction. And what many women don't know, with today's plastic surgery, in the right hands, women can go under anesthesia, have a double or single mastectomy, and wake up five to eight hours later looking natural and whole.
"As techniques have developed, as we've become more sophisticated, the ability to preserve the skin envelope, and as you mentioned, even sometimes the nipple areola complex, allows us to have a result at the end of the day, that is very near untouched in nature," said Dr. DellaCroce.
Here in New Orleans, Medical Watch as been there for 20 years as major breakthroughs in breast reconstruction were first used. Dr. Robert Allen pioneered removing a breast and making the new one from abdomen fat and skin, giving the woman a tummy tuck but leaving her abdominal muscles in tact.
We also followed him when the first and second pair of identical twins in the world had breast surgery. Abdomen fat and skin were taken from the well twin who had had babies. She got a tummy tuck, while the identical twin with cancer, who was not a mother and had no extra fat or skin from pregnancy, got a new breast.
At The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, Dr. DellaCroce also pioneered new ways to create breasts out of your own fat from the hip, or a combination of the abdomen, hip and buttocks fat, or from a complete body lift. He was also on the forefront of being able to save the original breast skin, nipple and areola as Angelina Jolie did.
Most of the breast reconstructions in the United States are still done with breast implants, but routinely women end up coming to Dr. DellaCroce because they're either having discomfort or pain with the implants, or they want more natural looking breasts. He takes the implants out and then uses their own body fat to make new natural looking breasts.
Jolie had the fat and glands inside of her breasts removed. Instead of her own fat tissue to replace the lost volume, she had temporary skin extenders put in, then later after her skin healed, implants replaced them. Whether reconstructing with implants or fat, with the milk glands and ducts gone, the risk of cancer is very low.
The doctors say it is best to have the reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy, whether you have cancer or not. But still, 70 percent of patients are not fully informed about reconstruction.
To see real pictures of real patients and how natural, whole and beautiful the results can be in the hands of a skilled surgeon, click here.
Dr. DellaCroce's partner is Scott K. Sullivan, MD, FACS, board certified as both a Plastic and General Surgeon, is the co-founder of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery (CRBS), and the St. Charles Surgical Hospital-the only hospital in the world dedicated to breast reconstruction for women facing breast cancer, where he is pioneering landmark breast reconstruction techniques.