Albany Med celebrates breast cancer milestone

ALBANY, N.Y. – A complex surgery that can help women recover physically and emotionally from breast cancer was performed for the 100 time at Albany Medical Center.

The breast reconstruction surgery technique used to require patients to travel hours away if they wanted to have it done but is now offered at Albany Med.

A 29-year-old Loudonville mother discovered she had an aggressive form of breast cancer when she was pregnant with her second child. She delivered a healthy baby boy, had a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

To heal emotionally, Kristie Scalese returned to Albany Med for a new game plan.

“No matter what life throws at you, you just have to stand up and fight back,” she said.

Scalese wanted to feel as if she had her breast back – her own tissue, not an implant. The kind of reconstruction she wanted used to only be done in Boston or New York City.

Three weeks ago, microsurgeons at Albany Med took fat, skin and blood vessel tissue from Scalese’s abdomen to make a new breast.

“We reconnect the blood vessels to the blood vessels in her chest wall,” Dr. Richard Agag explained. “It acts like a breast, feels like a breast and it is life long.”

Scalese was happy with the results.

“Last year, something was taken away from me, and I finally feel like I was given something back,” she said.

The flap surgery takes tissue from the abdomen, but it can also be taken from the thighs or the buttocks. It results in a reconstructed breast that feels almost like the original one.

“A lot of people who have seen me in the last two weeks say ‘I finally have the Kristy back.’ I have the glow back. I feel whole again, basically,” she said.

Scalese said it was her two children who kept her going through the procedure. She was only 22 weeks pregnant with her son when she was diagnosed, and he will turn one year old in a couple of weeks.

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