New normal: A breast reconstruction patient story

A breast reconstruction surgery patient shares her story from diagnosis to DIEP flap reconstruction.“I think one of my lowest points was when I found out I was actually going to have a mastectomy,” Linda said. “That word was so scary…it was a word that you read, but to think this was going to be my journey was really frightening.”

Linda Van Howe is one of the many women being treated for breast cancer who had breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

A new study shows that the rate of breast reconstruction for patients like Linda has gone up dramatically over time. Researchers found that 46 percent of patients received reconstruction in 1998 but that figure rose to 63 percent by 2007.

Though reconstruction rates are rising and surgeons are able to offer more expertise in the procedures, researchers still see a variation in reconstruction options depending on the state a patient lives in and the types of oncology treatment they receive.

For Linda, working with a team of plastic surgeons at U-M meant exploring all her options and how they fit into her life and her treatment. The results allowed her continue doing the things that she loves and to embrace a “new normal” following cancer.

”The scars are a constant reminder that I’m a survivor, and that’s OK. I call it my ‘new normal.’”

Choosing a breast reconstruction surgery option

Breast reconstruction is a personal journey that takes into account many individual factors. While not every woman chooses to have reconstructive surgery after breast cancer, having the greatest number of choices can offer you significant psychological and practical benefits.

As you consider your options for breast reconstruction, keep in mind these frequently asked questions. You can read answers to these and more on our website.

  1. Should my reconstruction be immediate (at the time of mastectomy) or delayed (following a period of healing or treatment after mastectomy)?
  2. Will my procedure use natural tissue or an implant, or a combination of both?
  3. How will I select a surgeon for my care team?
  4. How long will my recovery be?
  5. Does reconstruction interfere with mammograms or other medical needs for cancer survivors?

 Take the next step:

Plastic Surgery at University of Michigan Health System

At U-M, we recognize the real importance reconstruction surgery can have for a breast cancer patient who needs to undergo a mastectomy. More importantly, we know this is a choice each woman must make for herself. Our plastic surgeons have special training in many types of reconstructive procedures to help offer you the best options for your personal needs.



University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.