Recovery from breast cancer is a difficult experience, and surgery to restore nipples from breast tissue after a mastectomy has historically produced unsatisfying physical results. “I think a lot of plastic surgeons are frustrated with nipple reconstruction being okay but not great,” says Dr. Abigail Chaffin, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Tulane University. And certainly the patients are even more frustrated than the surgeons.
The current method of nipple reconstruction involves creating a nipple shape out of existing skin and coloring it by means of a tattoo. But these nipples lack realism in more ways than one.
Doctoral student Nick Pashos has developed a new method of nipple grafting using nipple tissue taken from donors or from women having a mastectomy. Pashos was initially studying ways to regrow human lungs, but was inspired by a Netflix documentary about the gender change surgery of Chaz Bono to change course.
This is an exciting development in reconstructive surgery research. Real nipple reconstruction may help women undergoing mastectomies feel more complete after having plastic surgery.
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