JESSUP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but there’s a lesser-known event this month with a breast cancer connection. October 16 is considered Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day.
Typically, the tissue used for breast reconstruction comes from the patient who’s having the mastectomy. But as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, in the case of a southeastern Pennsylvania woman, two deceased tissue donors made her procedure possible.
“I have to be honest. I did not know much about the surgery.” Standing before a few hundred people on Tuesday at MTF Biologics in Jessup, one of the world’s leading tissue banks, 53-year-old Lesley Geller explained what led to her connection with the non-profit organization. “BRCA. B, R, C, A.”
Although this mother of four from Yardley, Pennsylvania did not have breast cancer, she did have the BRCA gene which meant she had an 85 percent risk of getting the disease.
“I wasn’t going to wait to sit around and get cancer. That was not for me,” she said.
Ms. Geller underwent a double mastectomy in December 2016. But because she was so lean, grafting tissue from another part of her body for breast reconstruction was not a viable option. She found out post-surgery that MTF Biologics had supplied human tissue for her reconstruction procedure.
“I still remember reading it and thinking that two people had lost their lives and were aware enough to donate tissue,” Ms. Gellar said.
But for Ms. Geller, it was much more than just tissue.
“I felt gifted that someone else gave to me and I, in return, felt beautiful and whole like kind of inside and out and was cancer free,” she said.
Joe Yaccarino, President/CEO of MTF Biologics said, “When I talk to a lot of patients and a lot of doctors, their interest is to try and get their patients to feel normal again and we’re very proud to be part of that process.”
Helping millions of patients like Ms. Geller is what MTF Biologics is all about.
“It inspires us. It makes us really happy about what it is that we do every day,” Mr. Yaccarino said.
Because Ms. Geller didn’t have cancer and was in otherwise good health, she had the preventive double mastectomy and the breast reconstruction surgery the same day. She says her health insurance covered both procedures.