Madigan’s Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Clinic takes a team approach

Clinic will hold awareness event Oct. 19

By J.M. Simpson on October 13, 2022

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. 

To this end, there will be a Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day on Wednesday, Oct. 19from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm on the first floor of the Madigan Army Medical Center Mall. All are welcome.

"The mission of our Breast Reconstruction Service is a team approach to breast reconstruction which focuses on the person and family for optimal outcomes," began Patricia Suelflow, the clinical nursing officer in charge of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Clinic.

"Every single person that comes to our clinic for breast cancer reconstruction gets a treatment plan that is specific to them taking into consideration their goals and needs while staying within the standards of cancer treatment."

Suelflow added that reconstructive surgery is individualized; that not every person wants reconstruction; that it is an option that is open to patients for the rest of their lives; and that for those who do, it is dependent on their preferences, style choices and treatment goals.   

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of breast reconstruction procedures in 2018 was 101,657. Success rate is dependent on the choice of reconstruction, as well as the person's specific conditions.  According to the National Institute of Health, the success rate of breast reconstruction surgeries is between 90 and 98 percent depending upon the type of reconstruction.

"Madigan's plastic surgeons are trained and competent to perform all current surgical techniques for reconstruction focused on maximizing success and minimizing complications," continued Suelflow.

"We offer the most up-to-date, innovative options, such as the newest generation of implants, absorbable synthetic mesh systems, autologous fat grafting, indocyanine green laser angiography, and a procedure called lymphovenous bypass (offered only in very select centers). If a specific capability is needed, our team coordinates and partners with civilian colleagues in the area to round out care."

She added that according to the median age of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 62, which means that half of the women who develop breast cancer are under the age of 62 when diagnosed.

"One in eight women develop breast cancer," Suelflow states, "and about one in one hundred men are diagnosed with breast cancer, so men should also be paying attention to their chest for any changes."

When asked to describe in a word the work of Madigan's Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery Center, she replied "Metamorphosis. It reminds me of the life cycle of a butterfly, which is why I chose the word metamorphosis," Suelflow explained.

"It's a beautiful, and at times complicated journey, and I am proud to be able to help them with the incredible skills of my plastic surgeons who care about the wellbeing of each person that enters our clinic. I am humbled by their generosity and compassion every day."

Early detection saves lives, and Suelflow urges all women over the age of 40 to get an annual mammogram, and earlier if there is a family history. 

To diagnose breast cancer, Madigan's Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Pathway is a timely and reliable way to ensure that each patient received appropriate care.

One of the first programs of its kind in the military, Pathway provides educational materials, ensures continuity to care, provides continual updates of patient progress to the team, maintains a tracking system, and remains the single point of contact for the patient.

The Madigan Plastics & Reconstructive Surgery Center is located on the second floor of the Medical Mall. Patients that have a primary care manager at Madigan can "self-request" breast imaging by calling 253-968-3669 ext. 0997, or their primary care manager can put in a referral.