About seven years have passed since breast-cancer survivor Suzanne Somers underwent an experimental reconstruction procedure following a lumpectomy. Now an intimate health update from the former “Three’s Company” star has left many fans wondering whether her miracle results are for real.
“This is a regrown breast,” the 71-year-old said of her resilient bosom at a Beverly Hills fund-raiser last weekend. “This is really mine.”
Around 2011, Somers underwent a controversial procedure known as cell-assisted lipotransfer, which involves extracting fat from the abdomen or butt, isolating healthy stem cells from a portion of the sample, and then enriching the remaining fat with the supercells. (It’s a little like ordering an extra shot of espresso with your morning Joe.) The deluxe fat — from the belly area, in Somers’ case — is then grafted into the breast.
Somers claims that the stem-cell infusion slowly regenerated the tissue she lost to surgery.
“[F]or a year, I felt, like, electrical zippers growing the blood vessels,” she said.
But the question is: Can cell-assisted lipotransfer actually regrow a missing breast?
No, according to Dr. Rod Rohrich, professor and chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
He tells The Post that reconstructive surgeons in the United States generally steer clear of the unproven procedure, citing a 2016 meta-review in the journal JPRAS Open, which found that studies of the technique were largely ill-designed, with few control groups to benchmark for safety or efficacy.
The doctor, who also edits the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, additionally questions claims that stem cells can help transplanted fat “take” to its new home.
“The thought is that this would improve fat transfer survivability, but it’s not been shown to be conclusive,” he says.
Despite Somers’ tingly feelings of new growth, Rohrich says the procedure is basically just a breast augmentation — only riskier.
“You are actually altering the fat by concentrating it,” he says. “There’s a chance that the potential for malignancy could increase by using concentrated stem cells for fat grafting.”
For women considering breast reconstruction after lumpectomy, Rohrich recommends working with a surgeon who is experienced in a range of techniques and who can advise on options, which may include a traditional fat graft minus the shady stem cells.
“These patients have breast cancer, so we want to do things that are safe for them,” he says.
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