A breast cancer diagnosis can be scary, but knowing your options if surgery is needed is an important part of the journey.

Dr. E. Stirling Craig is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Hartford HealthCare’s Cancer Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Dr. Craig specializes in microsurgery — the next level of breast reconstructive surgery. This procedure, using the patient’s own tissue, results in a breast that resembles the natural breast as closely as possible in shape, size, and position.

Breast cancer patients have the option to undergo reconstructive surgery at the time of a lumpectomy or mastectomy or wait to have it as a separate procedure.

“I have had patients come back, three or four years later,” said Dr. Craig. “Sometimes you have too much going on at that time and it’s too overwhelming. Patients will table it for a time when things are settled, they’ve survived the treatment, they’re doing great, and now they’re able to mentally take it on.”

During microsurgery, surgeons use a microscope to transplant tissue from one area of the body to another. During breast reconstruction on women, extra fat from the belly area is used.

“We utilize that extra fat and transplant it to the breast,” said Dr. Craig. “We then use a microscope to reconnect the blood vessel so that the tissue we’ve moved to the breast has its own blood supply and will stand the test of time if any other treatment is needed. We then pull the area where we took the fat from down to provide the patient with an authentic abdominal area.”