Christina Applegate is no stranger to going under the knife, as Make Me Heal has previously reported on Christina’s plastic surgery. (See Make Me Heal’s story on Christina Applegate’s plastic surgery). But when the actress was diagnosed with breast cancer, Christina joined the ranks of women who opt for double mastectomies as their preferred treatment. Now, Christina has said she will spend the next several months undergoing reconstructive plastic surgery to help repair her breasts. Make Me Heal speculates on Christina’s surgery as well as other celebrities who have survived breast cancer.
(Left: Before, Right: After)
It is difficult to speculate on what kind of reconstruction surgery Christina may be in the process of undergoing, as recent images aren’t revealing as Christina is, understandably, not wearing especially revealing clothing. As a young woman, recently diagnosed and treated, Christina is likely undergoing the most advanced techniques in reconstructive surgery, which spares as much skin as possible in order to later place implants.
Plastic surgeon Dr. John Di Saia tells Make Me Heal, “This one is hard as the possibilities in breast cancer surgery and reconstruction are many and the number of useful images we have to examine are few. Christina Applegate may have had contemporary skin-sparing mastectomies and may have started reconstruction with expanders as she seems up and around pretty early and is young. She has also admitted to her double mastectomy and again looks pretty good (in clothing at least) pretty soon afterward.”
Plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Walden further explains Christina’s likely treatment and reconstruction process: Christina Applegate: She underwent a bilateral mastectomy given her diagnosis of breast cancer and being BRCA-1 positive, which means after the mastectomies she has with very little tissue (equally) on both sides. For this reason, and the fact that she’s young and slender, she’s an ideal candidate for placement of tissue expanders which may have even been placed at the time of her mastectomy surgery. In any case, expanders are placed under the pectoralis major muscle and inflated with sterile saline over time to stretch out the breast skin, and ultimately silicone breast implants are replaced some 6 to 8 months later. Further down the road the nipples are reconstructed and even pigmented by a medical tattoo artist. Some lucky women who get double mastectomies which have been skin-sparing in nature have supple enough tissues that they don’t even need the expanders placed, and go straight to placement of the submuscular breast implants.”
Over the years, many other female celebrities have come out about their battles with breast cancer and how they dealt with the aftermath, either opting for some form of reconstructive surgery or not. These survivors include pop-singers Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, Olivia Newton-John and Anastacia, as well as actresses Edie Falco and Lynn Redgrave to name a few.
Dr. John Di Saia explains, “Some women decide upon partial mastectomies and radiation therapy. Not too long ago the options were not as many and skin-sparing mastectomies were not yet popular. This left many not-so-great-looking breasts with more problems. Some of the ladies operated for breast cancer and/or reconstruction in the not-too-distant past will probably be unlikely to appear in images that we could use to determine what had happened, as they may be self-conscious.
Dr. Jennifer Walden analyzed various celebrities who had mastectomies and speculated on what treatment and reconstruction that each leading lady likely went through:
“She had an aggressive type of breast cancer for which she had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It looks as if she’s had a nice restoration of her incredible figure with breast implants. When implants are placed under the muscle, whether for cosmetic breast augmentation or reconstruction, the implants are less visible and tend to look natural. I prefer silicone implants to saline ones as they have less issues with rippling and feeling like a water balloon under the skin and tissue (especially for reconstruction patients who have had breast tissue removed and are dealing with less coverage for the implant).”
“Sheryl is a slender woman with relatively small breasts to begin with, and from what I understand she underwent lumpectomy and radiation therapy for breast cancer diagnosed at an early stage. In this type of breast conserving surgery, the breast lump is removed with a cuff of normal tissue around it, and the area is then radiated after healing has taken place. Given this scenario, I doubt that she had any breast reconstruction surgery (implant or autologous, i.e. using your body’s own tissues). She likely didn’t have a huge change in the size and shape of the breast with the cancer taken out compared to the other side. (See Make Me Heal’s story on Sheryl Crow’s Botox use).”
Olivia Newton John
“She underwent a mastectomy in 1992 and states that she did have breast reconstruction surgery. She doesn’t mention what kind, and it is difficult to tell from the photos what kind of surgery it was. Given that she started with what appears to be modest “B”-cup breasts, she may have undergone implant reconstruction with a small implant. Autologous breast reconstruction where the breast mound is recreated with the body’s own tissue borrowed from the tummy is usually performed on women who start out with larger breasts that are beginning to sag, or who have a little extra abdominal tissue get rid of for the sake of the breast reconstruction. (See Make Me Heal’s story on Olivia Newton-John’s plastic surgery).”
“She underwent lumpectomy surgery following a visit to a plastic surgeon with whom she was consulting with for elective breast reduction surgery. Thank goodness for that visit, because the surgeon picked up a breast cancer on the routine preoperative mammogram. During the lumpectomy surgery, the plastic surgeon likely rearranged the tissues to lift the breast which the cancer had just been taken out of, and then reduced and lifted the other breast without the cancer. That would also account for the length of the surgery being 7 hours, as she reported. The end result? A nicely proportioned, lifted, somewhat smaller, and symmetric chest compared to her large breast before she underwent surgery.”
“She secretively underwent treatment (surgery and chemotherapy?) for breast cancer while continuing to work on the set of the “Sopranos”. This leads me to believe she likely didn’t have a reconstructive surgery with a large amount of downtime, such as a TRAM or DIEP flap (autologous tissue) breast reconstruction, because she would have been out of commission for a little while after that. The photos I have seen look like she still has a very nice appearing breast shape and defining features such as cleavage. She was has relatively small breasts to start with and now appears to have fuller breasts, so she very well could have undergone a minimally invasive treatment for her cancer with no reconstruction (and we are just seeing her in push up bras and flattering dresses), or she may have had conservatively-sized breast implants placed on both sides. Way to go Edie.”
“She underwent mastectomy for breast cancer and proudly acknowledges that she opted not to undergo breast reconstruction surgery, so instead she uses a prosthetic that she places in the cup of her bra. Otherwise known by us girls as a “chicken cutlet”, these silicone inserts can be made especially for breast cancer patients, as can the bras that hold them in the right place.”
Dr. Walden explains, “Breast reconstruction is good for the body and soul after having undergone removal of such an important part of the female anatomy during such a scary and emotional time of being diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Many of these women are Make Me Heal veterans and we wish them all the best in whatever reconstruction path they took after successfully battling breast cancer.
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