Breast reconstruction can restore the four “S’s” – Size, Shape, Softness and Symmetry. Resensation makes a fifth “S” – Sensation– possible.
After undergoing a mastectomy, breast reconstruction can help women look and feel more like they did before they had their breasts removed. From an aesthetic standpoint, breast reconstruction can create very natural-looking breasts – they can be soft, symmetrical, and the size and shape that the woman prefers.
But there is one aspect of natural breasts that typical breast reconstruction doesn’t deliver – sensation. During mastectomy, the breast tissue is removed, severing the nerves that supply feeling to the breast and nipple. When nerves are severed, nerve signals are disrupted. This can leave the breasts with a total or near total loss of sensation.
Axogen, a global leader in innovative surgical solutions for peripheral nerve injuries, is dedicated to improving outcomes for women after mastectomy. Through our innovative surgical technique – Resensation – women now have the potential to restore sensation to the breasts as part of their reconstructive surgery.
The emotional pain of mastectomy
The decision to have a mastectomy can be incredibly difficult. Even when a woman has considered all her options and is confident that a mastectomy is the best choice for her, the feelings surrounding the loss of one or both breasts can be overwhelming.
Breasts can impact a woman’s body image, including how she feels about her appearance. Breasts are an important erogenous zone for many women. Women may also associate their breasts with nurturing and comforting their children.
For these reasons, mastectomies are often accompanied by a complex set of emotions. Women may feel thankful that there is a treatment that can get rid of cancer or ensure they don’t get breast cancer, but women may also grieve the loss of their breasts and the unwanted change in their appearance.
Restoring size, shape, softness and symmetry – but what about sensation?
Studies show that breast reconstruction after mastectomy can help women have greater long-term satisfaction and a better body image.1 But women can also experience disappointment after breast reconstruction when they realize their new breasts have little to no sensation.
Women may be surprised that their new breasts have little to no ability to feel touch, warmth or cold.2 During a time in which women are faced with many sudden decisions, they may feel their medical team didn’t do enough to make them aware that they would have little to no feeling in their breasts after reconstruction. Even if the loss of sensation was mentioned or covered in the paperwork they signed leading up to surgery, many women still feel like they were ill-informed about what to expect after mastectomy.3
For some women, the loss of sensation is a nuisance. For others, the loss of sensation is a source of ongoing grief about what was lost, a reminder of the trauma of the breast cancer, and a barrier to recovering physically, psychologically and emotionally.4
With body image still being a main concern in our society, emphasis may be put on the way a reconstructed breast looks and how it feels to the touch to someone else, but not how it feels to her.
Ivica Ducic, MDMedical Director, Axogen
During a mastectomy, nerves that provide sensation to the breast are cut when the breast tissue is removed, creating a loss of sensation. This numbness can persist even after breast reconstruction surgery.
Undergoing a mastectomy can present a life-saving opportunity for women faced with breast cancer. Yet mastectomies come with long-term side effects, including persistent numbness ...
Karen ZaderejChairman, CEO and President, Axogen
Bringing back feeling with Resensation
With Resensation, women may no longer have to accept that their reconstructed breasts will be permanently numb. This leading-edge surgical technique is currently being offered by plastic surgeons with experience in breast reconstruction and microsurgery.
Resensation is performed at the same time as free flap (autologous) reconstruction surgery. Flap reconstruction uses the body’s own tissue, often taken from the abdomen, to rebuild the breasts. Resensation may be done during immediate or delayed reconstruction. Resensation is not offered with breast implant reconstruction; however, it can be part of a secondary reconstruction surgery to replace the implants with your body’s natural tissue.
Using the Resensation method, plastic surgeons reconnect nerves in the flap tissue to nerves in the chest using allograft nerve tissue.
Over time, the nerve fibers regenerate, becoming a part of the woman’s own body. As the nerve fibers grow, they have the potential to gradually restore sensation to the breasts.
When sensation is restored, it may be possible for a woman to again feel an intimate touch, a hot shower, a hug from her children or grandchildren, or a cooling breeze while lounging at the beach. She not only looks, but feels, like herself again.