When Sarafina Nance found out she had a very strong chance of getting breast cancer, she decided to have a preventative double mastectomy followed by reconstruction. The surgery would dramatically reduce the risk, but she would likely lose feeling in her chest. The 26-year-old was "fully prepared" to be numb, until pioneering surgery changed her life.
The first time Sarafina was screened for breast cancer, doctors found something worrying.
She already knew she had inherited the BRCA2 gene from her father, after he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and she had genetic testing.
The gene increases the risk of developing a number of cancers – including breast cancer; Sarafina, who lives in California, was told she'd need twice-yearly screening.
But after her first MRI scan, doctors ordered a biopsy.
"Waiting for the results, I was completely debilitated," Sarafina says.
"I remember calling my dad, asking him what happens if we both have cancer. What if I die?"
The mass was benign, but Sarafina realised she didn't want to go through repeated scans.
Still in her mid-20s, she decided to have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction. She would have all her breast tissue removed and implants would create new breasts.
Typically, mastectomy with reconstruction is offered to two groups: those with a cancer diagnosis, and those who have a high genetic tendency to developing breast cancer who choose to undergo preventative operations.
Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director at UK charity Breast Cancer Now, says that there is a distinction between the procedures that may be offered to women like Sarafina, and those who have already developed breast cancer. It's of the utmost importance that the cancer is properly treated.
"Breast cancer cells can exist in the area behind the nipple or behind the areola, so you have to be safe to get all the cancer out," Dr Pennery says, adding that ongoing cancer treatment plans may affect the method of reconstruction.
'You don't feel hugs'
Sarafina is an astronomy PhD student at the University of California, Berkley, and when she started researching her surgical options, her science background kicked in.
"It was very difficult to know what I should be doing," she says.
"Women who have mastectomies and reconstruction can lose feeling in their breasts and that can mean you don't feel hugs, or you don't feel waves crashing into you if you're in the ocean."
Dr Pennery says the surgeons she's worked with will try to minimise any side effects for women having preventative mastectomies.
"The ease of removing breasts and reconstructing the breasts does vary an awful lot on things like the size of the breast, the size of the nipple and areola and also how central it is, which can be affected, putting it bluntly, by how droopy one is," she says.
With implant reconstruction, it's "quite likely" a woman will lose sensation afterwards, she says.
"In order to do the mastectomy and reconstruction, the surgeon cuts through some of the nerves that supply the area and that's what leads to the numbness."
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THIS IS A SPECTRUM OF THE HOST GALAXY OF AN EXPLODING STAR 3.2 BILLION LIGHT YEARS AWAY. Youre looking at the culmination 4 months of hard work, 3 all nighters observing, countless hours of trying to code and combing stack exchange, and many many conversations with fellow astronomers trying to figure out how tf to reduce this data. (Thank you so much Rebecca, Kyle, and Taylor omg). And I finally got it—I AM SO HAPPY!! So what is a spectrum? In short, a spectrum shows the light from a star as a function of its wavelength or frequency. Picture light traveling through a prism— the light is dispersed by the prism, and you get to see various colors of the light! Thats essentially what a stellar spectrum is, but with light from stars far far away. The spectrograph (akin to the prism in my analogy) is attached to the end of the telescope, and separates the light into its discrete wavelengths before sending the data to the computer. The hardest thing about astronomy is that we cant touch, dissect, weigh, or otherwise interact with the stuff were studying. Its too far away!! So instead, we gather spectra of stuff in space to learn about their chemical composition, temperature, density, mass, distance, luminosity, and relative motion. We can learn all about a stars physical properties just by analyzing its LIGHT. How cool is that?! My goal is to use this spectrum (and others like it, of other galaxies hosting active supernovae) to measure the rate of the expansion of the Universe! The universe is expanding, and its expansion is accelerating over time, but we dont have a great constraint on how ???? its changing. Constraining that will help us learn about whats forcing that expansion— the mysterious dark energy. Now to reducing and analyzing all of my other supernovae spectra!!!
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A study from the Royal Marsden in London, published in 2016, found that "breast sensibility is significantly impaired following mastectomy and reconstruction" but noted the majority of women go on to recover some light touch sensation.
"Sensory changes post-reconstruction have largely been overlookedRead More – Source