In January 2023, over the course of a week, a round of successful bilateral Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) Flaps surgeries – the gold standard in breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients, were offered for the first time in Cayman at Doctors Hospital. The procedures were performed by Dr Anne Dancey, Dr Tanja Ebanks and Dr Keith Allison. This was part of a collaboration with Doctors Hospital, Cayman Surgery Group, and the Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation.
Jennifer Williams, Director of Operations & Chief Nurse, reflected on the experience:
“[Doctors Hospital] is happy to be working with Dr Tanja Ebanks and Dr Anne Dancey as the first hospital to office this procedure on the island. There were many wins during this successful course of procedures, but to be able to help the community is the biggest reward.”
There were four breast cancer patients, between the ages of 30-60 who received the surgery and are happy with the results.
We recently spoke with Dr Dancey from Cayman Surgery Group who praised the collective surgical team effort:
“I am so impressed with how the theatre and ward staff embraced this new procedure and rapidly learnt what they needed to do. It is very specialist requiring a new set of skills and yet they were better than many of the staff I have in the UK who assist me regularly with microsurgery…Bilateral procedures take 10 hours to perform; as a surgeon they are physically and mentally demanding. I was so grateful to have the support of a colleague from the UK, Dr Keith Allison, who kindly gave his time and energy to perform the surgery with me to make this run as smoothly as possible and provide the care that breast cancer patients deserve. I am also incredibly grateful for Dr Tanja Ebanks and Tatiana Kosinchar who assisted in theatre tirelessly and remained enthusiastic and cheerful no matter how long it took.”
Dr Dancey also offers a more detailed explanation of DIEP explaining:
“A Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) free flap is considered to be the gold standard plastic surgical technique for breast reconstruction. This autologous procedure (only using the patient’s own tissue) involves completely detaching excess tissue from the abdomen and transferring it to the chest to create a breast.”.
As Dr Dancey notes, performing DIEP Flap Surgery is a very complex procedure which requires much precision and skill, resulting in a limited number of usually tertiary hospitals worldwide providing this procedure in their service offering. However, through our exciting partnership with Cayman Surgery Group and Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation, Doctors Hospital have now joined the small percentage of hospitals worldwide that offer this procedure and the first hospital to bring this service to the Cayman Islands – all with our main mission in mind of providing an unwavering commitment to your changing health.
Our journey leading up to the implementation of this new-to-island procedure was not all smooth sailing but through a strong combined effort we have been able to help offer greater support to both the breast cancer patients and the surgical team along with overcoming the challenges of cost of equipment, specialist training. Dr Dancey explains:
“Doctors Hospital, Cayman Surgery and the Breast Cancer Foundation shared my vision to make this procedure available to Cayman patients. Without all their support and tireless dedication this would not have been possible… Doctors Hospital purchased the equipment needed as well as training the staff and allowing us to have the theatre time we required… The Breast Cancer Foundation… dedication to breast cancer patients has also been essential… The support staff at Cayman Surgery also deserve enormous credit in helping with all the planning and co-ordination that has been required….”
Looking towards the future of DIEP flap surgeries in the Cayman Islands, Dr Dancey feels it is promising. With the proper specialist training having been received, the equipment now accessible and available, Dr Dancey states more surgeries will be possible. The current task at hand is continuing to bring greater awareness to this opportunity for breast cancer patients, which Dr Dancey believes has already been progressed well through the tireless efforts from the Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation. They have done especially well in working to make patients aware of other procedures that will be required if they would like a DIEP Flap performed including the removal lymph nodes and offering their support.
Overall, Dr Dancey is honoured to have helped to bring this innovative procedure for breast cancer patients in the Cayman Islands:
“Breast cancer affects patients of all ages and backgrounds and every patient should be entitled to reconstructive surgery irrespective of their age or background. It is a privilege to be able to work with breast cancer patients and their support, patience and positivity makes this immensely rewarding surgery and I am lucky to be in Cayman and able to provide the surgery they deserve.”