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Breast cancer patients face genetic risks and reconstruction complications

MIRAMAR, Fla. – Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women and they are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women.

As medical experts try to understand those differences, they also help patients deal with the difficulties involved in breast reconstruction after surgery, especially for patients like Rachelle Duchatelier.

She was in her late 30s when her doctor diagnosed a lump in her breast. It was a surprise to Duchatelier who was always focused on diet and exercise.

“And then to come find out I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was totally in shock. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family whatsoever,” she said.

It never dawned on her that being African-American could increase her risk, especially for certain types of breast cancer.

“There’s a special type of breast cancer called ‘triple-negative’ that is more common in the African-American community and that could be through genetics,” said Dr. Juan Paramo, an oncologist with Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Paramo said lifestyle factors may also play a role in this ethic population.

“Unfortunately, being overweight seems to be a factor that is more common in the African-American community and therefore things that we can do to prevent that will help in the prevention of some breast cancer,” he said.

While post-surgery reconstruction is typical following mastectomy, plastic surgeon Joshua Lampert said that doesn’t mean it’s a simple process.

“Sometimes there’s chemotherapy and radiation and large tumors near the nipple that make it complicated for the surgeon to reconstruct the breast,” Lampert said.

Lampert stepped in to help Duchatelier after three previous procedures left her feeling disfigured, adding deeper scars to her cancer journey.

“For her we were able to revise her breast mounds, placing new implants and also doing some liposuction of her abdomen. She always wanted a six-pack look so we were able to do that with liposuction and then used that fat to inject in the tissue over the implants to try to blend and hide the implants to make it look more natural give her better breast mound,” said Lampert.

The procedure allowed Duchatelier feel whole again.

“You find your womanhood looking at yourself in the mirror,” she said.


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