Breast reconstruction is surgery to create a new breast in place of a breast that has been removed during mastectomy. A breast mound is created that comes as close as possible to the shape and look of a natural breast. The surgery may be done to reconstruct either one breast or both breasts.
The decision to have breast reconstruction is a personal one. It depends on how you think you will feel after a mastectomy. If you think you would feel uncomfortable with a flat chest or wearing a false breast (prosthesis), you may consider breast reconstruction. If you do not want to have any more surgeries, you may choose to forgo it.
If you are considering breast reconstruction, talk with your doctor about it before your mastectomy. Your doctor can tell you whether reconstruction is an option for you, and if so, what type of reconstructive surgery might work they recommend for your circumstances. Factors affecting the type that is recommended for you can include:
- The size and location of the cancer, which determines the amount of skin and tissue to be removed in the mastectomy.
- The amount of tissue removed from the breast.
- If your chest tissue has been damaged by radiation therapy or aging, and is not healthy enough for reconstruction surgery.
- Potential for complications.
- Your overall health and medical history.
- Once again, be sure to discuss the common risks with your doctor before making a decision.
There are two main types of reconstruction surgery:
- Expander/implant. An expander is used to create a breast mound, and expand the skin and muscle allowing the placement of a filled breast implant.
- Autologous tissue. A person’s own body tissues are used to reconstruct a new breast mound. Reconstruction surgeries leave you with two surgical wounds: the chest and the site where tissue was removed.
You may also decide to have other procedures to improve how your new breast shape looks.
Immediate reconstruction surgery has a longer recovery time than for mastectomy alone. With autologous tissue surgery, there is a second surgery site that will need to be cared for as it heals.
It is important to know that it can take several months before the final results of breast reconstruction can be seen. Be patient as your body heals.