Considering Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
A breast cancer diagnosis can be daunting and reshape lives in profound ways, often leading individuals through a challenging journey that involves various breast cancer treatment and breast surgery options. A common consideration that arises during the treatment process is the possibility of undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. If you’re contemplating having breast reconstruction surgery, consult your breast cancer surgeon, care team, and an experienced breast reconstruction plastic surgeon to discuss your options before you have a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Breast reconstruction surgery is an option to consider for restoring one or both breasts to near-normal shape, size, symmetry, and appearance, following a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or congenital deformities. Breast reconstruction often involves multiple procedures performed in stages and can either begin at the time of mastectomy or after breast cancer surgery. The two main categories for breast reconstruction are implant-based reconstruction and tissue (flap) reconstruction. Implant reconstruction uses breast implants to help form a new breast shape, whereas flap (or autologous) reconstruction uses the patient's own tissue from areas of the body like the thigh, buttocks, tummy, or back to form a new breast. In some cases, the implant and flap procedures are used together to rebuild a breast.
Before you decide on reconstruction surgery and what type is best for you, talk with your surgeon about any questions you have and for information about scars, changes in shape or contour, and other important factors to consider.
Things to Consider:
Timing of Breast Reconstruction: You might have the option to undergo breast reconstruction at the same time as your breast cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction). There is also the option to have breast reconstruction post-breast cancer surgery and later in time (delayed reconstruction). Understandably, you might not want to make the decision about reconstruction during your breast cancer treatment, and have the option to wait until after your breast cancer surgery to decide if you will get breast reconstruction.
Amount of Surgeries: You might choose to forgo breast reconstruction surgery if you don’t want to have more surgeries than necessary for your breast cancer treatment. Many breast reconstruction processes include more than one procedure.
Symmetry Options: If only one breast is affected, it might be the only breast reconstructed. A breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation might be recommended for the other breast as an effort to improve symmetry for the size, shape and position of both breasts. Breast reconstruction can also recreate the nipple-areolar area through a small surgical procedure, tattooing, or a combination of both. This is executed to help make the reconstructed breast look more like the original breast.
Future “Touch Ups”: There is typically an opportunity for future “touch-up” procedures, like fat grafting and scar revisions.
Risks: It's important to consider the potential risks and side effects of breast reconstruction surgery with your doctor and plastic surgeon. Risk factors are dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery, your cancer treatment, body type, and other conditions you may have.
What to Expect During the Recovery Process: The recovery process is different for each individual, and the amount of time it will take for a person to heal will vary. Most people are able to return to normal activities within 6-8 weeks post-breast reconstruction surgery. It may take up to almost eight weeks for bruising and swelling to go away. The recovery time might even be shorter if implants are used without flaps. It’s also important to keep in mind that it might take 1-2 years for tissues to completely heal and scars to fade. If you have diabetes, circulatory problems, or a bleeding disorder, it may take longer to heal.