For a list of Breast Cancer web resources, scroll to the bottom of this article...
Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims made that choice with the help of her family following her diagnosis of breast cancer: "When we heard the pathology report my mother was with me, my daughter was with me and I can't tell you how blessed I am to have my husband's support."
The support of loved ones ranks high among women diagnosed with breast cancer, Sheriff Mims is no exception. She suggests that other families, loved ones and friend to: "Be as supportive as you possibly can and be truthful about your concerns, your worries and their fears."
With a family history of breast cancer, her diagnosis of a non-invasive form was better than expected, still she chose to treat her disease very aggressively: "When you get bad news it seems so overwhelming but when you start the process of making decisions the worry seems to diminish."
In order to drastically reduce a recurrence, Mims chose to have both breasts removed and to start the breast reconstruction immediately.
Her husband, Gary, helped her make that decision: "He said the most loving thing to me, he said: if it means that there's a better chance that I'll have you with me for the rest of my life - have the double mastectomy."
Doctor Kaye Riolo is a Fresno plastic surgeon who counsels a lot of women looking for answers about mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
Margaret Mims is not her patient but Riolo understands the Sheriff's decision to have a double mastectomy despite the cancer only being in one breast.
Dr. Riolo wants women to understand that the surgical techniques have changed over the last two decades: "The surgery is much less invasive than it was in our mother's or grandmother's generations." And women have several options when it comes to breast reconstruction following mastectomy of one or both breasts. The process can begin immediately, at the time of the initial surgery or later, if chemotherapy and radiation treatment is to occur.
The most common breast reconstruction currently in use involves saline or silicone implants. After the breast is removed a so-called 'stretcher implant' is inserted under the chest muscle.
Dr. Kaye Riolo say over time more and more saline is injected to expand the skin making room for a permanent saline or silicone implant: "The skin just stretches like a woman's belly stretches when she's pregnant."
The process can take up to a year. The results will not be perfection with any reconstruction choice. This is a replacement of the breast not duplication.
And there are other options which use the patients own tissue to create a replacement. For women concerned about implants these choices may be better for them. However, the surgery is longer and more invasive but no implants are used.
As a surgeon and a woman Dr. Riolo offers a reminder that may help to keep you from ever facing those choices: "Women need to know that we cure most breast cancers and the earlier we find them the more likely we're going to cure them and the less likely it is that they will need a mastectomy or have the conversation with me about breast reconstruction."
And Margaret Mims is determined to pass along that message to anyone who will listen: "The sooner you find out if you do have breast cancer the more options you have."
Early detection of Breast Cancer is the key. So arm yourself with knowledge that gives you the power to have choices. Encourage other women to do the same.
You can start right now and right here on this website: www.ABC30.com.
Check out the list of links to information about family history risks for breast cancer, how to do your own breast self exams, when to get mammograms, risk factors and much more. You'll find links to photos, illustrations and video showing the reconstruction process.
You can also read a young mother's personal battle with breast cancer while pregnant and her honest and open thoughts and feelings about the reconstruction process. Jamie Ledezma of Fresno maintains an inspirational Blog.
Like Sheriff Mims, she chose not to let fear keep her from the power that knowledge brings. You can too!
Breast Cancer Websites
Jamie Ledezma's Personal Breast Cancer Blog: Let the Battle Begin
Hereditary Risks of Breast Cancer
American Society of Plastic Surgeons Website
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
American Cancer Society
Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy
Photos & Story of one woman's Breast Reconstruction
How Reconstructive Surgery is Done & After Photos
American Cancer Society - Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Information and support
National Institute of Health Medline Plus - Breast Cancer www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/breastcancer.html
Komen for the Cure - Latest Breast Cancer News
American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Self Exam Instructions to print
Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Self Exam Instructions to Print