Dr. Gregory Dick is one of the founders of the Comprehensive Cancer Program at the Shady Grove Aquilino Cancer Center, and has also served as a previous president of the American Cancer Society’s Montgomery County Unit. He is the first plastic surgeon at Shady Grove Medical Center to perform fat grafting in a breast reconstruction.

Dr. Gregory Dick

For most of my patients, fat around their thighs or tummy is the enemy. They can’t get rid of it fast enough. But what we might call trouble spots for some are actually becoming pockets of hope for patients rebounding from breast cancer, thanks to an innovative procedure called fat grafting.

For 25 years, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center has been at the forefront of providing breast reconstruction following cancer surgery. And the tradition continues. Shady Grove is one of the first hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area to perform fat grafting as part of breast reconstruction. What is fat grafting? It is an extremely safe procedure, usually performed during the second stage of breast reconstruction.

In the first stage, or mastectomy, the surgeon places a balloon or expander in the breast. During stage two, the surgeon will remove that expander and place a permanent implant. Then, the doctor removes fat by liposuction from areas where most patients have a little extra to spare: the tummy or thighs. The fat is then injected under the skin at the upper and inner areas of the “new” breast.

Fat grafting has advantages for both doctors and patients. It allows the surgeon to better shape the breast helping it to appear very natural. Grafting also allows the surgeon to better match one breast to the other, especially after a lumpectomy for early stage breast cancer. Studies also have shown that fat grafting improves the tissues in patients who have received radiation therapy, perhaps because of the stem cells present in the grafted fat.

Not only are the results superior, but patients get the added benefit of moving fat from where they don’t want it to where they can use it. And more good news: Insurance will cover fat grafting. I now recommend the procedure to all of my patients.

What’s best of all is that we have another tool for reconstructing not only the body, but also the spirit and self esteem of those touched by breast cancer.