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My world collapsed with my breast cancer diagnosis and I immediately scheduled an appointment with a surgeon at my local hospital.

I also happened to search US News and World Reports Best Hospitals for Cancer and found Massachusetts General to be high on the list. Even though Mass General was a long drive from home, my amazing husband suggested we check it out. On their website, I noticed something called Nipple Sparing Mastectomy, a term I had never heard before.

During my consultation, the surgeon told me she thought I would be a candidate for this delicate surgery and I was elated. I had a double mastectomy with immediate implants. I came from the surgery with my breasts, areolas, and nipples completely intact, silicone implants inside, and looking very much like my old self. I call it the “One and Done” surgery.

I was extremely grateful to be eligible for the NSM surgery, but began to wonder why I had never heard of it before and how I could spread the message to women that this option exists. I had stumbled upon it while surfing the internet. Had I only gone to my local hospital, I would have had the traditional surgery and never known what I missed. Since this surgery requires a high level of expertise to perform it, not every hospital offers it. If women happen to go to a hospital that doesn’t offer it, they may never learn about it.

After my successful surgery, my “Pay it Forward” crusade has been to educate women that Nipple Sparing Mastectomy exists, so if they ever have to make breast cancer surgery decisions, they will be more informed about all the options. Although not everyone is a candidate for this surgery, it is worth exploring for those who are interested.

Shirley Alarie
Riverview, FL

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