Dr. Kamakshi R. Zeidler with the creative bras from BRA Day 2016’s bra decorating contest.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler of Aesthetx talks to us about preventative measures, her own personal experience of breast cancer, and how she’s helping to raise awareness and build empowerment.
Tell us about BRA Day; how did it originate, what does it entail, and what is your mission with this event? I am excited to report that this is the sixth annual BRA Day event and it has become an incredibly special event for my patients, partners, and the Bay Area community overall. This inspirational event is focused on the education and support of women dealing with breast cancer and most importantly, to make them aware of the many breast reconstruction options available post diagnosis. All proceeds will benefit Cancer CAREpoint where I sit on the Board of Directors, and it is a non-profit organization that provides personalized counseling, assistance, resources and education to all Silicon Valley cancer patients, families and caregivers. At the event, I will be sharing compelling information about the latest breast cancer statistics/research, while attendees will also have the opportunity to see some of the new technological advances in breast reconstruction through demonstrations. Dr. Pamela Munster, Professor of Medicine and the Co-Program Leader for UCSF’s Center for BRCA Research, will be giving a special update on the latest research and advancements for treating patients with breast cancer gene mutations. BRA Day 2017 will also include a creative decorated bra contest that will be presided by celebrity judges including Olympic and World Cup Champion Brandi Chastain and renown dermatologist, Dr. Amelia Hausauer who recently joined the Aesthetx powerhouse team. In addition, the event will be highlighted by photos of breast cancer survivors taken at a recent photo shoot that I organized for my breast cancer patients. The information to attend in this event and to enter the creative bra decoration competition is here: BRA Day 2017.
What has your own personal experience of breast cancer brought to your practice, and the way you view the work you do? I have many relatives who have been affected by the BRCA gene who were either diagnosed with breast cancer or voluntarily elected to have a double mastectomy. This allows me to relate to my patients on a deep, personal level as I am deeply familiar with what they will be experiencing during their breast cancer journey.
Given these experiences, I understand what a patient feels like carrying the weight of a diagnosis and empathize with how daunting it is to hear the word cancer. I also understand how stressful it is for your life to stop, and how difficult it is to get back to living your life. Patients and I understand how lonely it feels when the world has moved on but somehow the weight of everything a patient has gone through still weighs heavy.
Because I do so much cosmetic breast surgery, I look at breast reconstruction as part of that spectrum. I love taking care of my patients in a special way and feel that it is important to provide a cosmetic practice setting rather than a cancer center to do consultations and postoperative care. I believe this helps my patients understand how important every nuance of the final aesthetic result is to me. I personally have turned down many offers to join major cancer centers because I have not wanted to give up the luxurious office setting, and boutique style of caring for my patients.
What are some of the surprising statistics concerning breast cancer? According to The American Cancer Society, 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year. Less than half of all women who require mastectomy will be offered breast reconstruction surgery, and fewer than 20% will elect to undergo immediate reconstruction. In addition, studies have revealed that only 23% of women understand the wide range of breast reconstruction options available. In my experience, I see that the vast majority of women choose to have reconstruction once they understand the amazing results that can be achieved.
I feel very passionate about bucking this trend and educating women about the numerous options available to heal both the physical and emotional scars when they have been given this life-changing diagnosis.
“I feel very passionate about bucking this trend and educating women about the numerous options available to heal both the physical and emotional scars when they have been given this life-changing diagnosis.”
What, if any, preventative measures can women take in regards to their health as it pertains to breast health? I highly recommend being proactive about your overall breast health. The majority of women who get breast cancer do not have a genetic mutation. However if there are a number of family members who have had breast cancer, particularly at a young age, then it’s good to talk to your doctor about getting tested as new genes are being discovered every year. For patients who do have a genetic risk factor, more frequent and aggressive monitoring is highly recommended.
It is important to get to know your breasts! I find it surprising that some patients suddenly find huge masses that have clearly been present for a long time. Doing self breast exams every month and treating yourself to a salt scrub to give your breasts a good exfoliation will be very beneficial. Of course regular doctor exams and mammograms are highly recommended as when caught early, breast cancer is extremely treatable.
Is breast cancer hereditary, or is it is it caused by other factors? If so, what are the highest contributing factors? While most of the women who get breast cancer do not have a genetic mutation, it is important to look at your family history to determine whether there are relatives who were diagnosed with it, especially at an early age.
Superstars like Angelina Jolie are among those with a strong genetic risk. The BRCA genes are some of the most well known genes, but there are many others. For those with this gene, the risk of developing breast cancer is in the 80 to 90 percentile so many women are advised to consider removing their breasts proactively even before getting cancer. Many people accused Angelina of being so drastic not realizing that she was following good medical advice.
There are other risk factors such as anything that exposes your breasts to estrogens, having your period start at an early age, or having menopause at a late age. Pregnancy can be seen as putting a pause on estrogen exposure to your breasts, so the earlier you have a pregnancy and the more pregnancies you have, the risk of breast cancer has been shown to be less. In addition, certain foods are high in estrogen and certain hormonal treatments such as contraception and hormones for menopause can increase the risk. Lastly, smoking and prior radiation for lymphoma or thyroid cancer, can increase the risk as well.
What preventative measures would a woman take her in 20s versus her 40s in regards to overall breast health? I would recommend self exams, healthy living, no smoking and gaining a solid understanding of your genetic background. As mentioned above, it’s also important to get an annual exam by your general practitioner or gynecologist. In addition, I highly recommend getting annual mammograms (especially after the age of 40 given there is a higher risk) and ultrasounds for any palpable lumps, in addition to asking for MRIs if a mammogram indicates you have dense breasts.
Are there warning signs to look for as we age? How much does age play a part in breast cancer? Age plays a small role in the lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Any physical change in the breast such as nipple changes, discharge, puckering and dents are warning signs and should be checked out immediately
For those whom you’ve treated, how do you aim to promote and encourage their expression of confidence and femininity post surgery? A good breast reconstruction is key to many women having a good quality of life after being treated for breast cancer. Reconstruction is a choice and certainly some women choose not to do it for a variety of reasons. Despite the so called ‘new trend’ of “Going Flat,” which was mentioned in The New York Times, I find that women who have experienced good reconstructions without complications have the easiest time going on with life – they can wear all types of clothing with confidence, feel comfortable with sexual intimacy, and content when they see their reflections in the mirror. Many women often tell me that there are times when they actually forget they even had breast cancer. My goal is to understand each individual patient – not only what they want to look like, but also how they want to feel and what they are willing or unwilling to go through to achieve those results.
I like to think “out of the box” when it comes to tailoring procedures for each patient. Every patient is unique, but the one thing that they do all have in common is their desire to feel confident in their own skin no matter what they are doing or wearing (and sometimes not wearing). I have an affinity for fashion and certainly understand how wonderful it is when things fit correctly. I often ask my patients how their clothes are fitting and if anything is not feeling correct, I look for ways to perfect our results.
I host BRA Day to raise awareness about breast reconstruction but it also serves another very important purpose. This gathering provides an alternative type of support group – one that is fun swanky, filled with good food, music and education and activities that bring this community closer together.
Before this event I host a photo shoot for my reconstruction patients where they get their hair and makeup done and feel like a superstar as they get to get glammed up for the camera. This photoshoot is personally one of the most special things I put on for my patients and I am looking forward to seeing these wonderful and moving pictures! I am particularly grateful to Sientra and Airxpanders for sponsoring this! For more information about this event please visit BRA Day 2017 Photo Shoot.
Image credit: Teresa Nora Trobbe.
Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler, founder of Aesthetx
A thought leader and visionary in the future of plastic surgery, Dr. Kamakshi Zeidler is a founder of Aesthetx and practices in Silicon Valley, Northern California specializing in all types of breast surgery. She is known for blending traditional cosmetic and reconstructive techniques together to achieve beautiful natural results. Dr. Zeidler has authored numerous medical journal articles and has lectured nationwide and internationally. As a physician whose family is affected by the breast cancer gene, Dr. Zeidler is dedicated to offering her breast cancer patients with the same results she expects in cosmetic surgery. She continues to partner with companies that bring advances to the field and is pursuing her academic research with new technologies that will improve the process and results of both reconstructive and aesthetic breast surgery. Dr. Zeidler is a member of multiple renowned professional societies, like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, the California Society of Plastic Surgeons, the California Medical Society, the American College of Surgeons, the Santa Clara County Medical Association and the South Bay Chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association. She is also very active when it comes to charitable work and serves on the board of directors the Cancer CAREpoint. To learn more, visit Aesthetx.