Breast reconstruction

As part of your breast cancer surgical plan, our surgical oncology team will discuss your options for breast reconstruction.

Reconstructive surgery can play an important role in restoring your sense of self, body image and emotional well-being after surgery so you can feel whole again.

The goal of reconstruction is to create an aesthetically pleasing breast that looks and feels natural. With advances in surgical techniques, the appearance of the breast can actually be improved upon after undergoing mastectomy and reconstruction.

Reconstructive surgery team

Our surgical oncology team includes world-class surgical experts with expertise in highly specialized techniques for breast cancer reconstruction.

Patients in Chicagoland have a distinct advantage. Edward-Elmhurst Health is among just a handful of organizations with two board-certified microsurgeons who operate in tandem.

Lucio Pavone, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Iris Seitz, M.D., Ph.D., are board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons with Edward-Elmhurst Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. Both doctors are experts in operating on the tiny nerves and blood vessels of the abdomen, breasts and lymphatic system using advanced microsurgical techniques.

Reconstructive options

The reconstructive options can be classified into two main categories: reconstruction with implants and reconstruction with the patient’s own tissue (autologous reconstruction) using microsurgical techniques.

We offer many surgical innovations, including breast conserving surgery, direct reconstruction at the time of surgery, oncoplastic surgery to preserve the size and shape of your breast, and DIEP flap breast reconstruction, an advanced procedure to restore natural-looking breasts after cancer without implants.

DIEP flap procedure

Women who want breast reconstruction now have an advanced option that looks and feels natural, lasts longer than implants and even offers a mini tummy tuck as part of the procedure.

Deep inferior epigastric perforator artery surgery, or DIEP flap, creates a new breast with fat and skin from a woman’s abdomen. The result is natural breasts that can regain sensitivity over time and potentially reduce the risk or severity of painful lymphedema in the arms.

What’s unique about the program is that Drs. Seitz and Pavone perform all DIEP flap procedures as a team. In fact, they joined the health system together specifically to perform this procedure.

The doctors can perform it at the same time as a mastectomy, although they can also perform it after treatment. Women who have both breasts removed and reconstructed at the same time can avoid having lopsided breasts or needing additional reconstruction surgeries down the road.

All DIEP flap patients are monitored 24/7 with a smartphone app that allows the care team to watch in real time for signs that a patient’s flap might be failing. Though flap failure is rare, the greatest risk is within the first 48 hours after surgery. Between the expertise of Drs. Pavone and Seitz, their flap failure rate is close to zero.

Lymphedema therapy

Lymphedema (an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in tissue that causes painful swelling) may occur in breast cancer patients who had all or part of their breast and underarm lymph nodes removed, or who had radiation therapy to treat the disease. 

Our surgeons perform two advanced procedures to control lymphedema in combination with DIEP flap surgery: vascularized lymph node transfer (transplanting healthy lymph nodes from the flap tissue into the chest and armpit area) and lymphaticovenular bypass (rerouting lymphatic fluid to drain through lymph nodes in other parts of the body). Learn more about lymphedema therapy for breast cancer patients.