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Comprehensive care after breast cancer surgery

Julie Neighbours with physical therapist

Julie Neighbours with physical therapist

Julie Neighbours was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 10. After treatment, she had surgery in June for a double mastectomy with a deep flap reconstruction. Surgeons used tissue from her abdomen for reconstruction and even though her breasts healed, her abdomen did not. Neighbours had to go back to the hospital when she got an infection a couple weeks after surgery.

“I went back and saw Dr. [Al] Hassanein, who was my plastic surgeon, and he referred me to the [IU Health Comprehensive] Wound Clinic,” said Neighbours.

When Neighbours went to the IU Health Comprehensive Wound Center, her physical therapist talked with her about nutrition.

“When Julie first came to us, I asked her just kind of offhand, ‘So how’s your appetite? Are you eating? And she said she had eaten a banana that day,” said Matt Hygema, PT, DPT, CWS. “When you have a large, complicated wound that’s draining a lot, you need a lot of protein.”

Hygema gave her some coaching about what she should be eating and she took those suggestions to heart. They started seeing results by the next visit.

“It’s a collective contribution of the commitment of our clinical health care providers,” said Chandan Sen, PhD, who is the IU Health Comprehensive Wound Center executive director. “When we see that the patient’s complications are healing, the smile on their face when they walk back home, that’s the biggest payback we can have.”

Sen also leads the Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, which is one of the scientific pillars of the IU Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative. More than 30 scientists and staff work at the center, focused on regenerating cells and tissues as they try to reduce the number of amputations in the state. The team works on cell-based therapies, tissue engineering, military health, as well as the wound, burn and inflammation program.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Anna Carrera

Research Communications Manager

Anna Carrera is the research communications manager for Indiana University's Precision Health Initiative, IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She joined the team in June 2019 after working as a TV news rep...