Photo: Photographed by Marialuisa Rincon
Pamela Harvey was not herself after her second breast reconstruction.
Barely six years later, she decided to unilaterally treat her ductal carcinoma mastectomy , Dr. Steven Gordon of Houston Methodist The Woodlands Institute for Reconstructive Surgery corrected Harvey's asymmetry in January after her original reconstruction in Louisiana left a contour aberration.
But, she said, something was missing.
In November, Harvey will be the first patient to receive the 3D Tattoo of Nipples and Areolas at Methodist – and the first female patient in Houston to have her nipple and areola reconstructed in ink in a large hospital system
After I've done that – I'm not complete, "said Harvey.
The program is the first tattoo service offered in any major hospital system in Greater Houston, said Gordon. Designed by Benjamin Albright in 2017, breast cancer survivors in Houston who performed a mastectomy and subsequent breast reconstructions were referred by their plastic surgeon to private tattooists Albright completed the entire breast reconstruction process with her own surgeon.  "It makes a difference that it is offered here because they have accompanied me on this trip," Harvey said. "I have trusted Dr. Gordon."
For patients like Harvey, there are several options for nipple reconstruction that are more likely to undergo a mastectomy than a major lumpectomy and radiation to treat their breast cancer.
Nipple and Warren reconstruction is usually regarded as the last step in a breast reconstruction, Gordon said. One patient might be eligible for a nipple-conserving mastectomy, but Harvey's cancer was too close to the areola. Or another option is a skin graft to look like a nipple, but this method loses projection sooner rather than later, Gordon said.
Often, patients opt for a prosthetic nipple – a piece of silicone or cartilage that looks like a nipple. Not a good option for Harvey, she said – it would always be bold.
"As a woman, one has breasts and one has nipples," said Harvey. "That was not even available to me six years ago."
The End of the Lead
Instead of restoring the breast with a silicone implant, Gordon made an autologous reconstruction of Harvey with fat from her abdomen in January instead of repeating her previous implant-based surgery and subsequent body rejection or subsequent To risk pain and infections.
"It's the last step in getting the breast back to its original state," Gordon said.
For Harvey, it's also the end of a painful, six-year-old story.
The decision to significantly amputate one of her breasts was not easy, she said. With the breast comes the inherent femininity – with the removal of it comes the doubt and the feeling of incompleteness.
"It's always up to you," Harvey said. "But that's the last step to look in the mirror and feel more normal."
Although the tattoo – or any other procedure of nipple reconstruction – will not restore the sensation, which is often regarded as one of the most sensitive parts of the body will contribute to the aesthetic aspect of the breast.
In mid-November, Harvey will arrive at the Methodist's Department of Reconstructive Surgery and sit in the chair of Paola Cordero, Gordon's assistant and associate at the Institute of Patient Affairs, who is entrusted with the procedure for her background in skin care and permanent make-up has been.
The procedure takes about three hours from beginning to end – most of it is needed for tattoo placement and color matching, which is the permanent ink for Harvey's mother's breast. As with any other part of the body, each tattoo is like a work of art – the depth and shading give the impression of a three-dimensional nipple and give every woman who picks it up the feeling of being whole.
The process has already aroused great interest among the institute's existing patients undergoing the breast reconstruction process and women performing similar treatments in hospitals across the country. Gordon initially said that the institute had started small – addressing each one on a case-by-case basis and making sure that they were prepared both physically and emotionally.
And Harvey will be the first.
mrincon @ chron.com