(KRON) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the CDC, about one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her life, and many of them won’t be able to afford reconstructive surgery.
Dr. Karen Horton has been in the business of breast cancer reconstruction for well over a decade. The traditional techniques involve either a three-dimensional tattoo, or folding the skin on top of itself to try and recreate the nipple.
Now she’s one of a handful of doctors in the country studying whether they can reconstruct a breast using nipples that once belonged to another woman. “When somebody dies, if they donate their body to science, if they donate their organs, we might use their skin for surgery,” Dr. Horton said. “We might use their corneas for corneal transplants or their bones or their tendons. And nobody has ever harvested nipples and areolas before so it’s so exciting.”
“The Nipple-Areola Complex graft or NAC graft is different,” she went on to say. “It’s a female nipple and areola. They process it so all of the DNA is removed and all the cells are removed. So there’s no chance of rejection because there are no other immune system cells from another person.”
It’s not an animal product, is not made in a lab, and Dr. Horton says the more time a woman spends with her new nipple, the more her body will adapt — meaning blood vessels and nerves will grow into the graft, which could lead to color and feeling returning.
Studies have shown breast reconstruction is a critical part of a woman’s journey in overcoming breast cancer; it can help them physically, emotionally, and psychologically. But this newest study promises to enter uncharted territory. When asked if she thinks any woman will hesitate to take part because the nipple is coming from a cadaver, Dr. Horton said she understands there will be skeptics. But she adds that after practicing breast reconstruction for 16 and a half years, she thinks this could be the best option available to women.
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Dr. Horton is s offering women a chance to participate in this study for free. It will require several follow-up visits. You can sign up for a consultation HERE. Make you sure you select the “NACgraft” option.