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Woman speaks out about breast cancer options

By Elisa Streeter, originally published on NEWS10 ABC

ALBANY – Marie Graham, 68, of Loudonville was diagnosed with breast cancer more than two decades ago when treatment options were less sophisticated than what they currently are and mastectomies were an accepted way to deal with the disease.

COLONIE, N.Y. - Lisa Elfenbein knew she had to be strong from the minute she was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer.

Many know the scary statistic that breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, but what many don't know is the options available to women once they have had their breast removed.

A Colonie woman had to face that not once, but twice, and she says breast reconstruction was more about closure than vanity.

"I was never going to whisper the word cancer, I was going to shout it out and get attention for it," said Elfenbein.

So she took it head on and had a mastectomy of her left breast and then considered breast reconstruction, and that's where plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Lynch stepped in.

"Women who discover breast cancer, they cannot see five years from now or three years. They are only seeing five days and they are thinking they can lose their family. So when you are talking about breast reconstruction it is all secondary," said Dr. Lynch.

That's why so many women are not aware of the choices out there, nothing like what women had to contend with in the 1950s and 60s.

What changed was the use of a back flap, bringing tissue from the back with a blood vessel still attached and attaching it to the chest.

There are also tissue expanders.

"The majority of patients can have the tissue expander at the time of mastectomy, placed under the muscle, everything takes place, we inject this, pump it up," said Dr. Lynch.

Elfenbein researched her options every step of the way, and when she had her right breast removed ten years later as a prophylactic measure, she was back to see Dr. Lynch.

"I looked at cancer as a war. I know my villain, I know my enemy and I am going to go into battle. Having the reconstruction was sort of raising the flag of victory," said Elfenbein.

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