How to Positively Support Someone Who Has Breast Cancer


Hamed Saber

On average, 1 out of 8 women will get diagnosed with breast cancer. This statistic puts the harsh reality of this disease into perspective. Because you might not know how to react to a friend who says she has breast cancer, we put together some suggestions for you should this unfortunate situation happen.

Support her decisions

Having breast cancer means making a lot of decisions, and a lot of stress. For example, she may have to decide if she will get a lumpectomy, radiation treatment, or mastectomy. All of these things require research and an investment of time and energy.

In this scenario, you have to remind yourself that unless you’re a qualified medical expert, you are not in the best position to determine someone else’s life.

Instead, you can be of greater help by simply listening. Listen to her without judgement and let her share her ideas with you. Whatever she says, let her know you’re behind her all the way.

If you notice any strong emotional undertones to her words, support those too.

Go to appointments with her

One of the worst feelings to have when going through something difficult is feeling like you’re alone. Don’t let your friend go to appointments or meetings by herself. Simply being with her means a lot. If she says she wants to go alone, you could offer to drive her to and from the location. That’s a start, and it will help.

Be specific

Questions like “how are you?” and “let me know if you need help” are not as helpful as you think for a few reasons. First, she’s getting asked those questions by mostly everyone she knows.

Secondly, she might not know the right way to answer.

For example, if you ask her “How are you?” she might say, “I’m fine, thanks.” But the reality is she doesn’t want to talk about how she’s really feeling: sad, sick, and low on energy.

Instead, ask specific questions and make specific inquiries, like:

  • Let’s grab a coffee and chat this Tuesday, okay?
  • Can I come by and make you dinner tomorrow?
  • Let’s go see a movie this weekend!

Be a positive action-taker who goes beyond asking general questions. It will mean more to her than you know.

If you follow these 3 general rules, you will be a better supporter.

The Benefits of DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Over Other Reconstructive Options

diep reconstructionThe below question is answered by Charleston breast surgeon, Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr. of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction:

What are the benefits of the DIEP flap breast reconstruction over other options?

I am going to break this question into two parts.

The first part is what are the benefits of the DIEP flap over reconstructive options using implants?  Let us start with the benefits of implants.  The primary benefit of implant is that the operations are shorter, they are potentially safer, and you do not need to operate on another part of the body. Additionally, implants are readily available, and if you do not have enough extra body tissue somewhere to make a breast, implants may be the preferred choice for this reason.  The advantage of the DIEP flap over implants is that it produces a much more natural feeling, warmer, and trouble free breast (after the reconstruction process is completed).  There is data to suggest that women tend to accept the reconstructed breast as their own more readily if it is made using their own tissue, in comparison to women who have a reconstructed breast using implants.  Additionally, many women feel that they have too much extra tissue in their abdominal area, and they may actually view removing this tissue to make a breast as an added bonus.

The second part of this answer is going to be why is the DIEP flap better than other reconstructive options using the patients own tissue, with the most commonly performed in our practice being the GAP or gluteal artery perforator flap, which is taking the buttock.  The primarily advantage of the DIEP over the GAP is that it is faster, and no position changes are needed during surgery to harvest the flap.  If the patient has adequate abdominal tissue to meet her reconstructive needs, we generally recommend using this as our first line option.  Having said that, however, the buttock serves very well to make breast, although the process is a little more tedious and lengthy.

Would you like your breast reconstruction question answered? Just ask us!



Upcoming Webinar: “Is Natural Breast Reconstruction Right for Me?”

NBR WebinarWe at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction are excited to announce our upcoming webinar, Is Natural Breast Reconstruction Right for Me?, happening Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern / 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Intended for anyone who has been affected by breast cancer (including those who have been recently diagnosed, those currently in treatment, those currently in remission, and family and friends of those with cancer), the no-cost webinar will provide information about women’s options for natural breast reconstruction

Unlike other types of post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, natural breast reconstruction uses tissues from a woman’s body to create natural looking and feeling breasts. The webinar will be hosted by The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction’s Dr. James Craigie and Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr.,MD, both of whom specialize in natural breast reconstruction surgery.

During the hour-long event, the surgeons will educate attendees about…

  • Exactly what natural breast reconstruction entails and who is eligible for this type of surgery.
  • The language and shorthand of natural breast reconstruction, defining and explaining what all the natural reconstruction acronyms (including DIEP, GAP, TUG, and SIEA) mean.
  • What patients can expect in terms of hospital stays, recovery time, and scarring.
  • How The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction handles insurance and what types of insurance we accept.

We’ll also open the phone lines to a live Q&A session with the surgeons and our insurance specialist so attendees can get answers to all their questions related to natural breast reconstruction.

To join us for the webinar, register here.

Note: if you are busy on April 12, register today, and we’ll send you a link to the replay, which you can watch at your convenience.



6 Ways to Soothe Sore & Aching Muscles

Most active people don’t mind a little muscle soreness after intense workouts —after all, sore muscles are the evidence that our bodies are working hard enough to attain new levels of fitness and help us prevent diseases like breast cancer. But after a while, it’s perfectly normal to want some relief.

Here’s the six-part formula to soothing your aching muscles.

  • Stretch it out. Within a few minutes of finishing an intense workout, spend about ten minutes stretching your muscles. Lengthening warm muscles post-workout helps flush out lactic acid (the stuff that makes you sore the next day). A good stretch will also reduce stiffness and overall soreness, but make sure your muscles are warm. Stretching cold muscles can cause strains and tears.
  • Go for the cold. Take advantage of your sweaty post-workout state to enjoy an ice bath (or an icepack or a few minutes of cold water in the shower). Exercise researchers have found that applying cold in the period immediately following a workout constricts blood vessels, which prevents swelling and inflammation. Plus, as your body heats up after the chill, your circulation will automatically improve.
  • Apply heat. After the first day, heat can help ease muscles soreness by relaxing your muscles and stimulating blood flow to heal the small tears in muscle fibers. Even if you don’t have access to a sauna or hot tub, a hot shower, a soak in the bathtub, or a heat pack can help you achieve the desired results.
  • Get a massage. What better way to relieve tension, pain, and inflammation than by getting a massage? If you’re not comfortable stripping for a professional massage (or if you can’t afford regular visits to the masseuse), enlist a friend’s help or do it yourself with a foam roller, a massage stick, or a massage chair.
  • Rest. Our bodies are pretty good about telling us when we’ve overdone it. Listen to your sore muscles and slow down for a few days so you can heal. But don’t become a total couch potato: light movement (such as low-impact cardio or yoga) improves circulation and helps your body recover.
  • Pop a pill. If you’re still in pain after trying everything you can think of, go ahead and take an anti-inflammatory pain killer such as ibuprofen. But if you’re still sore after several days, consult your doctor to make sure you aren’t seriously injured!


Why You Shouldn’t Neglect Your Mammogram

mammogramWhile healthcare agencies and government entities may disagree about when to start having mammograms and how frequently to schedule them, one thing is clear: mammograms are the best way to screen for early breast cancer. You don’t want to neglect your mammogram, and here are a few reasons why.

You’ll have peace of mind.

When you’ve had a mammogram, you know you’re doing all you can to detect breast cancer early and get it treated. You won’t have that nagging question in your head about whether your monthly self-checks are doing the job.

Mammograms are the best way to protect yourself.

Regular mammograms are your best defense against cancer, and if you do have it at some point, you can treat it as early as possible. According to the National Cancer Institute, when breast cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98%. Mammograms can detect breast cancer years before you can feel the lump, so it’s the best early-detection instrument available.

Insurance covers it.

Most insurance covers mammograms for women over 40 or younger women who have high risk for breast cancer. If you have first-degree relatives (mother or sister) who had breast cancer at a young age, start having mammograms a decade earlier than the youngest age of diagnosis. For example, if your sister was diagnosed at 42, start having mammograms at 32.

It only takes a few moments.

Yes, the machine will press on your breasts, and yes, it can be uncomfortable. But it only takes a few moments, and then you’re good to go for a year. To reduce discomfort, try not to schedule the mammogram near your period if you tend to have tender breasts at that time.

If you’re over 40 and haven’t had a baseline mammogram, or you haven’t had one in a few years, it’s time to schedule one. Call your doctor today.


Your Questions about DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction Answered

The below questions are answered by Charleston breast surgeon, Dr. Richard M. Kline, Jr. of The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction:

What are the most common reasons a diep flap will fail?

Specifics may vary from case to case and practice to practice, but all failures involve interruption of the blood supply. This can be caused from a clot forming at the arterial or venous anastomosis, or from a conformational change in the blood vessel which produces “kinking” and subsequent interruption of blood supply. Most surgical teams experience dramatically lower failure rates as their experience expands, and it can get very difficult to determine precise reasons for failure (and ways to prevent it) when failure is a very rare event, i.e., success rates of 98-99%, which is typical for experienced surgeons. The best teams will nonetheless strive, whenever they have a failure, to find some “take home message” which they can use to hopefully further minimize their failure rate.

If you had a failure with Diep on one side does that increase your chances of failing again if another flap procedure were done in the future?

In our experience, no, although in a large enough series it may. We have always been able to use the internal mammary vessels, supplied through collaterals, to successfully supply blood to a second flap after an initial flap failed. Generally speaking, the collateral supply to the internal mammary from one intercostal artery is probably sufficient to supply a new flap. I do think that it is advisable, however, to wait at least 3 months following an initial flap failure before attempting a second flap, as this gives time for tissue edema to resolve, and serum protein levels to return to normal.

My Diep Flap failed on one side. I wound up with a silicone implant on the right side, and it is not healing quickly. What should I be watching for ?

That depends on what you mean by “not healing quickly.” If you have an unhealed wound, then something is really wrong, and you should see your surgeon. If it simply hurts or “doesn’t feel right,” then it may improve with time, or you may be developing capsular contracture (a common problem with implants), which may not go away. If you still want a flap, you may well still be able to have one from your buttock or elsewhere.

Do you have a question for the Charleston breast surgeons at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction? We’d love to hear from you.


Breast’s Anatomy: What Makes Up a Breast?

Image to the left taken from

Breasts are milk-producing (mammary) glands surrounded by fat and are attached to the front of the chest by ligaments. The breast rests on the pectoralis major chest muscle, but has no muscle tissue itself. The fat in the breasts determines their shape and size, which varies among women even though the size of the mammary gland system is relatively standard. In addition, women commonly have one breast that is larger than the other.

Breasts begin developing between the ages of 9 and 14 for most girls, and signal the start of puberty. Breast tissue is highly sensitive to the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin throughout the menstrual cycle. While breastfeeding, prolactin triggers milk production within the breast, and its anatomy is simple yet complex.

Lobules, Alveoli, and Ducts

Breasts have 15 to 20 sections known as lobes or lobules that converge at the nipple. Each lobule consists of hollow sacs called alveoli, and the lobules are connected through ducts. The final collection area for milk is known as the main duct.

During breastfeeding, prolactin stimulates the alveoli to pull nutrients from the woman’s blood to produce breast milk, and oxytocin causes the alveoli to release the milk through the mammary ducts to the nipple.


Also known as the mammary papilla, the nipple is the outlet for the mammary ducts and where milk is secreted.


Often included when referring to the nipple, the areola is the round pigmented area surrounding the nipple. During breastfeeding, small bumps on the areola known as Montgomery glands produce an oily substance that cleans and lubricates the nipple.

Lymph Nodes and Ducts

The lymphatic system helps fight infection by capturing and excreting pathogens and toxins through lymph nodes and ducts. These nodes are found near the breast, in the armpit, and behind the breastbone. Often, axillary (armpit) lymph nodes are removed during mastectomy.

Cooper’s Ligament

This ligament is often called “nature’s bra” because it lifts the breast and prevents it from sagging.

For a slideshow on breast anatomy, visit

Have questions about breast cancer? Visit our blog’s Ask the Doctor section.

Spotlight on Upstate Women’s Show

Image above taken from the Upstate Women’s Show website.

The 4th annual Upstate Women’s Show takes place August 26–28 at the TD Convention Center (formerly the Carolina First Center) in Greenville, SC. For three days, women can shop, watch fashion shows, attend cooking and fitness demonstrations, and just have fun with other women. Whether you’re a teen, a single woman, a mom, or a retiree, you’ll find plenty of fun, treats, and excitement at the show.

Over 300 vendors will show and demonstrate their products for women, and the exhibitor list includes Aloette Cosmetics, Carolina Pet Chef, Massage Envy, Chocolate Dreams, and The Children’s Museum. Products and services available range from jewelry to closet organization systems and baby gifts to a variety of artwork.

One of the exhibitors, My Girlfriend’s Closet, is working with Safe Harbor, an organization that helps women and children in need. If you drop off gently used accessories at Safe Harbor’s booth, you’ll receive a coupon for My Girlfriend’s Closet, and proceeds go to Safe Harbor.

Special areas of the show include . . .

  • Corley Entertainment Stage, with fashion shows, music, and comedy.
  • BI-LO Cooking Stage, with live cooking demonstrations.
  • Lift Your Spirits, a sampling area for wine and cuisine.
  • Cureton Photography Booth, offering free photos.
  • Go Active! Kids Area, with crafts, games, and sports.
  • Haywood Hall Man Cave, a lounge for the men to hang out while you explore.

The day wouldn’t be complete without some fun contests. To win a free bedroom makeover with Vern Yip of HGTV, visit from August 8–19 and upload a picture of your bedroom. Listeners will vote on the top three bedrooms that need a makeover, and Vern will choose the winner, who will receive a 15-minute consultation, a $1,000 gift certificate, and a queen mattress set.

Win an iPad on the SCBT Treasure Hunt. You’ll find a playing card in the bag you receive at the show. Visit the booths of the 8 sponsors on the card, and return it to the SCBT booth to enter the drawing.

The Upstate Women’s Show runs Friday, August 26 and Saturday, August 27 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, August 28 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Parking is $5, and tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 6–12. To save $2 on admission, bring 5 canned goods for Harvest Hope Food Bank.

For more information, visit

4 Must-Try Outdoor Activities

outdoor fitnessExercise can be a dirty word, so we prefer to talk about being active. When you’re active, you’re doing things you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. During the summer, you have a wide range of outdoor options to have fun, keep your weight down, elevate your mood, and get some fresh air. We’ve discovered a few outdoor activities you might like to try . . .


A highly enjoyable water sport, kayaking is similar to canoeing, but a kayak typically has a closed deck. The kayaker sits with legs in front and uses a double-bladed paddle. Any body of water, from a river to an ocean, is suitable for kayaking. If you like excitement, kayaking down swift-moving rivers, waterfalls, and rapids—also known as whitewater kayaking—is for you.

Kayaking works most of the muscles of the body, especially the torso and arms. You can certainly purchase everything you need to kayak, but kayaking companies will also outfit you on a rental basis.


Another water sport, surfing has always been synonymous with ocean waves, but it can be done anywhere waves occur, such as lakes or rivers. The surfer rides a surfboard, a 5-foot or longer flat platform, and maneuvers the board toward a wave hoping it will carry him or her forward, called catching the wave. Once the surfer has caught the wave, he or she stands up on the board to ride the wave. Surfing takes patience and practice.

Surfing works all the major muscle groups, especially the muscles of your upper body while catching the wave, and the muscles of your core, legs, and buttocks while riding the wave. The only equipment you need is a surfboard, which may be purchased or rented.


Similar to surfing, paddleboarders ride a board, but instead of catching waves far from shore, the rider stays nearer to shore, sits or kneels on the board, and uses a swimming motion or an oar to move the board. Variations including paddle surfing and doing yoga on the paddleboard make this sport fun and accessible for almost anyone.

Like kayaking and surfing, paddleboarding is a full-body workout and is an excellent cardiovascular activity. Paddleboards tend to be longer than most surfboards, up to 15 feet or more, and can be purchased or rented.


For those who prefer dry land or exploring, hiking offers a fun way to stay active and see the outdoors. Most serious hikers are environmentally conscious, and they walk trails in mountainous or hilly areas. Hikers receive a double benefit: exhilarating activity and incredible views. Many people get away from the hustle and bustle of their lives by hiking, and they enjoy the peace of being one with nature.

Hiking works most major muscle groups, and the higher hikers climb, the better workout they get. Equipment is simple: good hiking boots, thick socks, protective clothing, and a backpack stocked with food, water, a compass, and a map of the area. If the hike is going to be longer than a few hours or in areas without trails, the hikers should have other essentials such as a knife, fire starter, flashlight, and GPS device.

Have you tried any of these activities, and did you enjoy them? Any tips for the rest of us?

Personal Fundraising: How to Get Involved and Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer

fundraiser ideasBreast cancer research can always use more funding to continue the battle, and every dollar helps. Increasingly, people are turning to personal fundraising, and often partner with well known, established foundations to raise money.

The following tips and ideas might help you get your fundraising off to a good start:

Start a webpage or blog. Share your support, thoughts, and ideas about breast cancer with others through a personal webpage or blog. They’re easy to set up and provide a place for you to post articles, share your thoughts, and illustrate your fundraising efforts.

Donate instead of gifting. Rather than buy gifts for family and friends, donate that money through your page, and let your family know you’d rather have donations to your webpage than gifts this year.

Let everyone know. Don’t be shy—send an email, post your fundraising page on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and spread the word about upcoming events. People are willing to give when asked, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Solicit contributions from companies you do business with. Again, just ask for what you want. All they can do is say no. Prepare a short talk about what you’re doing, and give them the URL for your page. The more businesses you approach, the more money you’ll raise.

Hold a garage sale. Most of us have items sitting around that others could use, so why not declutter your home and donate to a good cause at the same time? This is the perfect time of year for yard sales, and perhaps you can encourage neighbors or friends to donate items.

Do it online. If you have items that you’d rather sell online, use eBay, Etsy, or Craigslist to sell them.

Hold your own event. Why not hold your own event? It could be a 5K, a bake sale, a car wash, a barbecue . . . the possibilities are endless. Be sure to check and see which types of promotional materials you can use and what is permissible in your area.

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