This article originally appeared on KUT.
In 1998, the federal government mandated that breast reconstructions after a mastectomy be covered by health insurance. That was the last time anything really big happened in the field of breast reconstruction, and while it was a huge development, it wasn’t an improvement to the procedure itself.
But an Austin company is aiming to transform outcomes for breast reconstruction patients through the use of 3D printing technology.
Warning: This story contains some frank discussions and revealing images of human anatomy.
Patty Rodgers, Debbie Rice and Gail Chovan have a few things in common: All three women fought cancer, and all three lost their breasts as a result.
“My husband and I decided that breasts were not the most important things in life,” Rodgers says.
“I remember just grieving before it began,” says Rice.
“I never had to buy a bra, and I had beautiful perfect breasts that I was really proud of,” Chovan says.
The loss of their breasts was tough on the three women. But their goal was to beat cancer whatever it took – chemo, radiation, surgeries – the goal was survival.
After breast cancer, what comes next?
Once they’d fought cancer and survived, all three women began to wonder what came next. How would they become whole again? Breast cancer survivors who get mastectomies are faced with the choice of whether or not to have breast reconstruction surgery, which, thanks to the 1998 mandate, is covered by insurance.
Rodgers chose to get a reconstruction, so doctors took fat from her belly and with that, made her new breasts.
Rice had a similar procedure.
But Chovan, an Austin-based fashion designer, went a totally different route: She chose not to get new breasts. Chovan and her post-surgery body are featured (skip to 7:24) in the video below.