NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, is in the hospital.
The 49-year-old celebrity chef was rushed to the hospital Tuesday night after suffering complications related to her recent double mastectomy.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, it is unknown what kid of mastectomy, skin or nipple sparing, Lee had, or whether her reconstruction involved implants. All of those factors can impact the kind of complications that might arise.
The problem was described as a painful buildup of fluid in her chest area.
Dr. Lauren Cassell, Chief of Breast Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, said Lee most likely had breast implants for reconstruction because she’s too thin to use her own tissue. She said the most likely problem is an infection.
“But I think the statistics place it at less than 5 percent and it’s only a percent of patients that will develop it, but it is one of the things that patients are told could potentially happen,” Dr. Cassell said.
The fluid build up on Lee’s chest is easily drained, but the fact that doctors want to keep her in the hospital for a few days suggests that they suspect an infection, which is easily treatable with IV antibiotics, and is a known possible complication after reconstruction.
“Sometimes what they do is drain it or actually take her to the operating room, wash out the area, and if possible exchange the implant, and sometimes if that is not successful, or not possible, they may have to actually remove the implant, and that would be unfortunate,” Dr. Cassell added.
The implants would have to be removed because they are foreign bodies that can harbor bacteria, making an infection extremely difficult to eradicate. Dr. Cassell said a high profile complication should not prevent women from seeking breast reconstruction.
“Reconstruction is a very important part of a woman’s body image. It’s a great thing we have to offer patients who undergo mastectomies. We have beautiful reconstruction, it’s a rare event and it should not make patients shy away from reconstruction,” Dr. Cassell said.
Even when there is a complication like an infection, after treatment, the implants can usually be replaced, and the reconstruction completed.
This may not be the problem facing Lee, but it is a known issue after reconstructive breast surgery.
The Food Network star is expected to be monitored at the hospital for a couple of days.
Cuomo left a Billy Joel concert at Nassau Coliseum early to be with Lee when he learned of her hospitalization. Cuomo, who is friends with Joel, introduced the musician at the concert.
She revealed her breast cancer diagnosis during a tearful interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Lee told Robin Roberts, who is a breast cancer survivor, that she received the diagnosis on March 27 during a photo shoot for People magazine’s Most Beautiful issue.
“I walked off the set and 20 minutes later my doctor called and told me I have breast cancer,” Lee said. “I just was stunned, I didn’t even cry, I was stunned. You know, and that’s just how fast life turns, it turns on a dime.”
Lee said she initially had a lumpectomy, but it wasn’t enough. Her doctor described her as a “ticking time bomb” and recommended the double mastectomy.
Lee wanted to go public with her diagnosis to help raise awareness about early detection.
“Without early detection on my side, I could be telling a very different story — or not be here to tell it at all,” Lee said in a statement posted on Twitter.”Your best weapon in fighting this disease is to get your mammogram every year.”
Lee is a cookbook author, magazine publisher and television chef. Lee and Cuomo, a Democrat, have dated for several years and share a home in Westchester County.
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