The decision to undergo breast reconstruction is an extremely personal one and we’re here to help guide you through our options.
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that restores shape of your breast after mastectomy – a procedure to remove the breast tissue either to treat or prevent breast cancer. Breast reconstruction typically involves several procedures performed in stages and can either begin at the time of mastectomy or can be delayed until a later date.
For many women, the loss of breast tissue caused by a lumpectomy or mastectomy can negatively impact confidence and self-esteem. Breast reconstruction can return the affected breasts to a more natural appearance. Breast symmetry is achievable, keeping in mind that the reconstructed breast will not be a perfect match or substitute for your natural breast.
Most commonly breast reconstruction is performed with a breast implant. Following removal of the breast tissue (mastectomy) a round expander is placed beneath your skin. This is often performed at the same time as your mastectomy; however, for some patients with increased health risks, the tissue expander may be placed at a later date. Depending on your candidacy, there are other options for breast reconstruction. Other options may include direct-to-implant and autologous reconstruction. You should make sure to also discuss these with your plastic surgeon.
A tissue expander is a small plastic device that is placed beneath your skin to restore the breast. The tissue expander is slowly inflated over the weeks following your surgery until you achieve the breast size you desire.
Once you have finished the tissue expansion, you will be scheduled to have the expander removed and replaced with the permanent implant. This is called the exchange surgery. This surgery is generally performed 4 to 6 weeks after the expansion is completed so that your skin can rest. This date may change if you need other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation. The surgery to take out the tissue expander and insert the permanent implant takes about 40 minutes for each side. You’ll be able to go home the same day.
Symmetry between your reconstructed and your natural breast is achievable. Often patients undergo a breast reduction on the opposite side of the reconstruction to lift and reshape the breast to match the new, reconstructed breast.
Skin sparing vs. nipple sparing depends on various factors including the size of your natural breast, as well as the size and location of the cancer.
Nipple reconstruction and fat grafting
The last stages of reconstruction include nipple or areola reconstruction and fat grafting, if needed. Fat grafting is when fat is removed from a part of your body, such as your thighs, abdomen (belly), or your back, and injected into your breast area to improve its shape and contour.
If you decide to have nipple and areola reconstruction, it’s usually done 2 to 4 months after the permanent implant is placed. 3D tattooing is an alternative for nipple and areola reconstruction. Your surgeon will talk with you about your options.
Both breast reconstruction and symmetrizing procedures are covered by your insurance under the Women’s Health and Cancer Act of 1998.
Depending on the size and location of your cancer, your remaining breast tissue may be incorporated into the area to decrease the risk of having a large indentation or irregularity to the shape of your breast.
Having a plastic surgeon as part of your reconstructive team allows you to have your questions answered regarding your reconstructive options and gives you the power to make an informed decision regarding your body. Even if you choose not have reconstruction following your breast cancer procedure, it is important to have a conversation and know what options are available.
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To schedule an appointment or to learn more about your breast reconstruction options, please Contact Us today.