The Prosthetic Promise Breast Cancer and Technologies of Corporeal Repair
In early 2011, Marc H Hedrick, MD, president of the San Francisco regenerative medicine and biotechnology company, Cytori Therapeutics, proclaimed: 'We believe cancer treatment is incomplete without reconstruction.' 1 His comment was made in reference to a recently concluded clinical trial for a procedure known as RESTORE, involving women who had undergone previous surgery and treatment for breast cancer. Cytori's company slogan is 'Restoring Lives' TM and the RESTORE procedure - which uses injected fat-derived stem cells as a form of breast reconstruction - promised to restore breasts to their 'natural look and feel' and, ostensibly, restore the lives of women through this promise. Such a promise of return or repair is nothing new in the arena of breast reconstruction following breast cancer. Indeed, repair and return are implicit within the very notion of efforts to reconstruct. In what follows, I draw on medical literature on breast reconstruction (specifically in the field of plastic surgery), look to personal correspondence with women who have undergone breast reconstruction of various forms, and analyse a number of web-forums organised by women going through these procedures.2 My interest is to explore the potentialities and limitations of the promise of repair that are associated with breast reconstruction, precisely because breast cancer remains such a publicly visible and enduring disease, and because breast reconstruction offers a salient domain through which to consider the technologies and aesthetics of repair.