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Healthier Me: Reconstructive Surgery After a Mastectomy - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Healthier Me: Reconstructive Surgery After a Mastectomy

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A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Your life changes immediately  -- with surgeries, treatments and the healing process. 

The loss of a patient's hair during chemo treatments can be very difficult, because it is a sign of their illness.  But, for some women battling breast cancer -- they mourn the loss of something else.

Breast cancer treatments have greatly improved over the years.  Fewer women have to have mastectomies, but those who do have more difficult decisions ahead of them. 

Valorie Steichen was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Surgery and treatments started immediately. Her priorities at the time were not about reconstruction. She says,"I was just trying to survive."

Valorie had a mastectomy.  She had a prosthetic and was comfortable at first, but eventually changed her mind.  She says,"as time goes on there is emotional and physical things that happen. I can say now-- that I didn't feel complete."

Sanford Health oncologist Dr. Shelby Terstriep is up-front with her patients about reconstructive surgery, but doesn't recommend surgery one way or the other. She says it's a personal decision for a woman. She adds, "our breasts are part of our being. It helps create our body image."

Dr. Terstriep says many patients decide they don't want any more surgeries. After three years -- Valorie decided she did want it.  She is still healing from the 12 hour surgery, but feels it gives her the confidence to keep fighting her cancer.

Valorie is now four years out from her initial diagnosis. She's undergone chemo, radiation and surgeries. She continues to get treatments, but is feeling good. And, wants to share her story to help others going through their cancer journey.

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In the Sanford Fargo Cancer Registry there were 242 breast cancers treated in 2012:

15 had no surgery   6%

142 had lumpectomies  59%

58 had mastectomies   24%

27 had bilateral mastectomies  11%


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