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Wife’s Brush with Breast Cancer Drives Rapid City Plastic Surgeon

Feb 23, 2018 11:16PM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

Plastic surgeon Hunter Moyer, MD, was already well established as an expert in breast reconstruction in Atlanta, Georgia when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of just 35.

“Even though I’d been in the field for awhile, it was a big surprise to us when my wife was diagnosed,” says Moyer.  Because of her age, Moyer’s wife decided early on on to have a double mastectomy. The early stage of the cancer made her an ideal candidate for a nipple-sparing procedure. “Because she already had breast implants, we just exchanged those implants for larger ones,” says Moyer. “She didn’t need radiation.”

Moyer’s training at Emory University, which has a large breast reconstruction program, as well as his personal experience has made him especially passionate about this area of plastic surgery. Last year, he brought that passion and expertise to Regional Health.

“The first goal is to eradicate disease. But a lot of studies and my personal experience has shown that the secondary goal of restoring form can have a huge impact on how women feel about themselves,” says Dr. Moyer. “We do a lot of different things in plastic surgery, but breast cancer reconstruction is the most rewarding.”

Today’s breast cancer patient has many choices for preserving and restoring form, from breast conserving surgery to implants to new breasts built from the patient’s own tissue, which can take more time in the OR but may deliver higher long-term satisfaction. For bilateral mastectomy, Moyer often recommends implants. For unilateral mastectomy, a breast made from autologous tissue may make for an easier match. Moyer says a big part of his job is helping women make these kinds of decisions.

“Patients normally have all of these options available,” says Moyer, who often works with patients over three to twelve months through the course of multiple procedures. “The cancer may determine options somewhat and if a patient needs radiation, that may steer us in one direction or the other. Every patient is different and a lot depends on their individual situation and their desires.”

As Regional Health prepares to roll out a new Breast Center of Excellence, its first organ-specific institute, Dr. Moyer says he is looking forward to making breast reconstruction an even bigger part of his practice.

“The first goal of this center is to improve patient outcomes through coordination of care, including meeting together, looking at the latest advancements, etc.,” says Dr. Moyer. “The secondary goal is to make the cancer journey easier for patients and the third is to make it easier for referring physicians, so that they know that they are referring patients to a center that is going to provide the top level of care.”

The new Center of Excellence will feature a breast-focused tumor board as well as a single website, a single phone number, and a single patient navigator dedicated to breast cancer. Moyer anticipates that the new center will attract not only patients, but also dollars to fund breast cancer research at Regional.