Steamboat Springs Lisa Hunsicker likes to tell women there's at least one fun part of breast cancer treatment.
The board-certified plastic surgeon for the past decade has been a pioneer in breast reconstruction, and she said women's options following their cancer treatments continue to grow.
She said that 25 years ago, mastectomies and breast reconstruction options often made women cringe.
The earlier surgeries required the removal of more muscle and breast tissue. But with new technology and surgical procedures, Hunsicker said, breast reconstruction is entering an exciting era.
“The push is further into mastectomy, and women want more choices,” Hunsicker told a small audience at Yampa Valley Medical Center on Wednesday night. “We have more choices and some exciting choices we haven't had before.”
Those include techniques such as fat grafting and 3-D nipple tattooing.
The passage of the women's health care act also means insurance plans are mandated to cover not only the treatment of the cancer but also the reconstruction surgeries.
But Hunsicker said there still are some sad statistics to overcome.
Seven in 10 women are not aware of breast reconstruction options, she said, and only 5 percent are seeking reconstruction right at the time of the mastectomy.
That's despite new advancements in the surgeries.
“We've evolved so far now, we do nipple sparing,” she said, referring to the less destructive procedure.
She said surgeries today also do not leave as visible of a scar.
Behind the new technology is a simple mission for Hunsicker.
She told the audience she takes pride in helping women regain confidence and self-esteem following their treatment.
Hunsicker, one of the few surgeons in the country who uses the direct-to-implant breast reconstruction technique, recently joined the staff at YVMC and is able to perform breast reconstructions here in Steamboat.
Jan Fritz, YVMC's director of cancer services, said Hunsicker brings a wealth of knowledge to the hospital staff.
Fritz said having Hunsicker on board allows women to plan reconstructive surgeries ahead of time and consider a variety of options.
“Just to have her be available doing consultations and doing surgical procedures is pretty amazing for a small town,” Fritz said. “And she really cares about each person. The patients have been extremely happy with her.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
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