The words “breast cancer” are the last two any woman wants to hear during a doctor’s appointment. Thankfully, with the evolution of medical technology such as 3-D mammograms, we are now recognizing and diagnosing most breast cancers at a smaller size and in a much earlier stage. In addition to improvements in our diagnostic modalities, the surgical treatment of breast cancer has seen tremendous evolution over the past 20 years.
In 2015, three highly respected surgeons realized that there was a significant void in the options for breast cancer surgery and reconstruction for patients on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dr. Paul Mace, an established Breast Surgeon in Gulfport since 1997, Dr. Michael Diaz, an accomplished Plastic Surgeon in Biloxi, and Dr. Hugo St. Hilaire, Chief of Plastic Surgery at LSU in New Orleans, joined forces to form the Southern Breast Specialists. Their mission was to bring the most advanced breast cancer surgeries and reconstructive procedures to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Since 2019, they have performed their surgeries exclusively through Memorial.
The Southern Breast Specialists offer state-of-the-art surgical and reconstructive options for breast cancer treatment. The team specializes in nipple-sparing and skin-sparing mastectomies incorporating sentinel lymph node biopsies and immediate reconstruction with DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flaps or implants.
What is the DIEP procedure?
The DIEP flap is nicknamed the “tummy tuck flap”, utilizing the skin and fatty tissue that would typically be taken and discarded during a tummy tuck operation (abdominoplasty). The tissue is harvested with its feeding blood vessels and then transferred to the chest wall to replace the diseased breast tissue that is removed during a nipple sparing or skin sparing mastectomy. The blood vessels of the flap are connected to the blood vessels between the ribs to restore blood flow to the flap.
The use of the patient’s own natural body tissues to perform the reconstruction eliminates the risks of foreign body reaction or scarring that can sometimes be seen with implant reconstructions. It is ideal for younger patients with breast cancer, as it eliminates the risk of the implant wearing out or needing to be replaced as the patient ages.
Who should consider DIEP?
Ideal patients for a DIEP flap reconstruction include: newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, patients with a BRCA mutation who are extremely high risk for the future development of breast cancer, patients who have had previous breast cancer and radiation, and patients who had a previous mastectomy and implant reconstruction with sub-optimal cosmetic results.
The Southern Breast Specialists team was the first multidisciplinary surgical team to offer DIEP flap reconstruction in the state of Mississippi in 2015. After seven years, they remain the most experienced and capable breast cancer team in the state, attracting patients from North Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
For a consultation regarding the most state-of-the-art breast cancer surgery and reconstruction available, please contact Dr. Paul Mace’s office in Gulfport at 228-822-6160 or Dr. Michael Diaz’s office in Biloxi at 228-396-2663.