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Nov 4, 2016 12:28 PM

Nipple-saving surgery helping mastectomy patients feel normal


PORTSMOUTH — A Portsmouth company is working to inform more women with breast cancer about a nipple saving surgery made possible with plasmablades.

"I think we have to think about it from a different perspective, and that is, how do we help patients with the next fifty years of their lives live without the fear or reminder that they had it, but also reduce the fear of a constant reminder that it may come back," said Suzanne Foster, GM at Medtronic.

A plasmablade uses brief high-frequency pulses of radio-frequency energy and can help women facing a mastectomy have natural looking breasts after surgery. The general manager of Medtronic advanced energy spoke about her own experience.

"When I came out of surgery, two days after, my surgeon - she's taking off the bandages - and she said, 'Okay, now look down,'" Foster said. "And psychologically, I don't know why, but I thought I it was going to be completely disfiguring, you know, like, I wouldn't look the same, and I was scared. It took me, she kept saying, 'Look down.' I'm like, 'I can't look down.' She's like, 'My God, would you look down?' you know, and as I looked down, I looked exactly the same."

A nipple sparing surgery can be used for 25 percent of women who have mastectomies. Elliot and C.M.C. in Manchester, Exeter hospital and Maine Medical Center all offer the procedure.

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