BOSTON (CBS) — Many women diagnosed with breast cancer undergo at least two surgeries, one to remove the cancer and one for reconstruction. But what if a patient could get both at the same time and save her own breast?
One local surgeon is doing just that.
After a routine mammogram last year, Pat Palonen was told she had breast cancer.
“It was like hitting a brick wall,” says Palonen.
The cancer was large and most patients like Palonen would be offered a mastectomy first and reconstruction with implants at a later date.
But then she learned of Dr. Abhishek Chatterjee at Tufts Medical Center. Trained as both a breast cancer surgeon and a plastic surgeon, Dr. Chatterjee said he could remove the cancer and fix her breasts all at the same time.
“Oncoplastic surgery allows the woman to preserve her breasts,” says Dr. Chatterjee. “It’s taking a large section of tissue from her breast that has the breast cancer and then rearranging the breast tissue that is left behind in a form of a breast lift,” he adds.
And unlike standard lumpectomy, Dr.Chatterjee can remove more tissue making it more likely he gets all the cancer out.
“You’re done with regards to the cancer 90% of the time,” he says. “And the woman wakes up in one surgery with her own breast, with her own nipple, with her own sensation to that tissue with a breast lift looking many times quite good.”
Pat was sold. “Hey if I can do it all in one shot, one and done, I’m there,” she told him.
It’s been about 9 months since Palonen’s surgery and she’s doing well.
“She feels whole and most importantly, she is free of cancer,” says Dr. Chatterjee.
“It’s your own skin. It’s you. You still remain you,” explains Palonen.
Palonen says Dr. Chatterjee has “miracle hands.”
“I love you. I love you and thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I will forever be so thankful to that man for his talent,” she says.
While oncoplastic surgery is becoming more common, Dr. Chatterjee says there are fewer than 20 doctors nationwide with his particular expertise.