With so much emphasis on the cancer journey, it's easy to forget about the scarring physical and emotional after-effects of breast cancer. The treatment of breast cancer is only part of feeling whole again, and after chemotherapy and a mastectomy, all you want is for everything to return to normal - including your body. 

Womensforum talked with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Allen Gabriel about the latest options for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Research shows that over the last ten years, there has been an increase in the rate of mastectomies by about 17 percent per year. Breast reconstruction can help to make the woman feel whole again and aid in the emotional recovery - yet the reconstructive process is still something that’s not very openly discussed. 

More women are opting for immediate reconstruction following their mastectomy, during which breast tissue is removed. Dr. Gabriel says that women have the option of having an immediate reconstruction, which occurs at the time of the mastectomy and involves one invasive procedure, or having a delayed reconstruction, which can take place months to years after the mastectomy. 


Options for reconstructive surgery are also improving. Dr. Gabriel says, "Over the last two decades, we’ve seen an increase in innovative products that have improved our surgical techniques. Some of those products are the AlloDerm® Tissue Matrix as well as the fat grafting processor, which have really helped us in offering better reconstruction for patients." 

An AlloDerm® Tissue Matrix is made up off collagen from donated tissues and is used during breast reconstruction to add a layer of tissue. The great thing is that it becomes like a part of your tissue. Your body recognizes it essentially as a sheet of collagen and begins incorporating your own blood vessels and tissue. Fat grafting occurs when cells from other parts of the body that are rich in fat cells are transferred to other parts of your body, in this case to replace the loss of tissue in a woman's breasts post-mastectomy.

If you are considering reconstructive surgery, it's important to know your options. "Knowledge is power, and we want these brave women to feel empowered to make the appropriate decision that they’re going to be carrying a lifetime," says Dr. Gabriel. He recommends websites like breastreconstructionmatters.com, which provide great information for family members and partners to collectively sit down and educate themselves.

cancer happyNew research has been released in the Journal Nature Cell Biology which may be a cure for cancer. Cancer cells have been turned off which may result in reverse tumor growth. Typically cells replace themselves by dividing constantly. In cancer, these cells never stop dividing which leads to tumor growth.

Microprocessor like cells, called microRNA instruct the cells to stop dividing when they have replaced themselves. But in cancer, these microRNA’s do not produce a certain protein to stop the dividing, and cells continue to replicate. Scientists removed the microRNA’s and found they could switch on cancer cells, which led to the discovery of being able to turn them off.

This news has many excited. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic are encouraged by the ability to slow down and cease cancerous cell growth.

“We should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function,” said Prof Panos Anastasiadis, of the Department for Cancer Biology.

“Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising. It represents an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer.”

10-facts-you-didnt-know-about-melanoma-headerYou think you're covered, but check out these melanoma facts.

Sure, you've heard about melanoma and you have a basic idea of what it is - skin cancer. But there are a variety of untold truths and myths about melanoma. Many women think that if you slather on sunscreen before heading outside that they're covered, but unfortunately, that isn't necessarily the truth. It is important to know the ins and outs of this disease so you can find ways to prevent melanoma as well as understand the symptoms to possibly catch an early onset of it.

Symptoms you should Never IgnoreWith the advancements of science and technology, one would imagine that cancer is beginning to dwindle away in the world. While cancer itself may become more treatable, doctors are also discovering more levels and different forms of the illness. Thankfully, there are many signs of female cancer that can be clear to a physician and help to identify the situation before it becomes deadly. Every woman should know what to look for and when to call the doctor.

cancer-charities-fraudPhoto Credit: The AP

The Federal Trade Commission has accused four different cancer charities of being complete shams. The Cancer Fund of America, Breast Cancer Society, Children's Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services, which are all run by members of the same extended family, have been accused of conning their donors out of $187 million dollars between the years of 2008 and 2012. 

The charities all claimed that they spent the majority of donations to aid cancer patients with things like hospice care, transportation to chemotherapy and pain medication.  According to the official complaint lodged by the FTC, only three percent of the donated money actually went to help those with cancer. Even then, cancer patients typically didn't receive more than a care package from the charities which contained items like Little Debbie snacks, plastic cutlery and iPod cases, regardless of the patient's age or diagnosis.   

The other 97 percent of the donated money went to two main things- hiring telemarketer companies and solicitors to earn more donations, with the rest being spent on CEO's personal expenses, which included jet skis, dating website subscriptions and lingerie shopping sprees at Victoria's Secret. 

“Some charities use donations to send children with cancer to Disney World,” Mark Hammond, secretary of state for South Carolina, told The New York Times. “In this case, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America used donations to send themselves to Disney World.”

The Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society both agreed to settle charges before any litigation was filed and will be dissolved, while the civil suit will continue against the Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services .The FTC's Jessica Rich told CNN that the remaining charities have few assets left and  government regulators will be lucky to recover $1 million from them. 

For many, the fraud conducted  by these charities exemplifies the need of greater resources for regulators, as well as reminds people to be vigilant about the charities they donate to. 

"If you get a phone call, your response is ‘I know someone who had cancer, or I had cancer,’ ” H. Art Taylor, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, told The New York Times.  “Your instinct is to open your wallet.”

But instead of immediately acting on those instincts to give back, use a site like Great Non-Profits or Charity Navigator to research the charity you're donating. That way you can be sure your money is actually going where it's meant to.