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Surgeons Help Breast Cancer Patients Return To Normal Faster

By Kathy Walsh

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) - A pair of surgeons at Littleton Adventist Hospital is offering a way to shorten the agony of a breast cancer diagnosis.

They work together in the operating room so that a woman undergoing a mastectomy can wake up with fully reconstructed breasts. They call this tandem procedure "direct to implant" surgery.

"I just went to itch, kind of in my armpit area, and I felt a lump," said Nina Lombardi.

Nina Lombardi
CBS4's Kathy Walsh interviews Nina Lombardi. (credit CBS)

That's how Lombardi found out she had breast cancer. The wife and mother of two little boys was blindsided. She was 31 years old with no family history of breast cancer. Nina would need a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction and chemotherapy. It would take 18 months or more.

"You feel like the sooner you can deal with it, the better it's going to be," said Lombardi.

So she discovered an option. It's a procedure called "direct to implant."

"What that means is instead of having multiple surgeries they have one surgery, one recovery," explained breast surgeon Dr. Jodi Widner.

Jodi Widner
Dr. Jodi Widner

At Littleton Adventist Hospital, Dr. Widner would operate on one breast.

"My job is to remove the cancer," she said.

Lisa Hunsicker
Dr. Lisa Hunsicker (credit: CBS)

Plastic surgeon Dr. Lisa Hunsicker would then do reconstruction. The doctors would repeat the process on the other breast. The patient wakes up feeling normal.

"It was important to me because I wanted to still look like I was a woman," said Lombardi.

"When she wakes up with breasts she is confident and she's able to focus on her recovery as opposed to focus on disfigurement," said Dr. Hunsicker.

Nina Lombardi With Family
Nina Lombardi and her family (credit: CBS)

Six weeks after surgery, Lombardi was back to work and starting chemotherapy. It was 5 months from diagnosis to recovery. Lombardi feels fortunate to be "one and done". And she's delighted to be moving on with her life.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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