Resensation after breast cancer surgery can be life changing

NEW YORK – More than 109,000 women this year in the United States may choose to have breast reconstruction after undergoing a mastectomy.

Jane Obadia and her husband, Danny, were having fertility problems and were one week away from having a surrogate carry a baby for them, when Jane's doctor called and told her she had cancer in both breasts.

"When you're initially given the diagnosis, your focus is on survival. What do I need to get through this?" Obadia said.

Obadia had a double mastectomy and implants and then had a daughter through a surrogate. 

But after a few years, a recurring complication brought Obadia to microsurgeon, Dr. Constance Chen, who suggested a procedure called resensation. 

Instead of implants, Chen used Obadia's own tissue to rebuild her breast, and then reconnected the nerves that were severed during mastectomy.

"Resensation involves taking a nerve graft and reconnecting it to a nerve on the flap or the tissue that is used to restore a patient's breast,"  Chen said.  

The nerve graft is then connected to a nerve on the chest wall, which restores feeling. The graft is made from processed human tissue.

"The axons regrow, start to regenerate at a millimeter a day," Chen said.

Obadia said she has about 80 to 90 percent of her feeling back.

"Now when I give my daughter a hug and her head rests there, I can feel her breath on my chest. That's priceless," she said. 

Chen said the resensation procedure adds only about 30 minutes to reconstructive surgery and is covered by most insurance.