Reconstructive breast surgery

Smiling woman

Breast implant reconstruction

Patients with breast cancer may need a total mastectomy, or removal of breast tissue. They may choose to have breast reconstruction. This can be done with their own tissues or with breast implants. If implants are used, the initial surgery may involve permanent implants or placing tissue expanders. Tissue expanders are often needed to increase the amount of skin after a mastectomy to cover the permanent implant. The tissue expander is slowly inflated through a port under the skin over one to two months. When the desired breast size is achieved, the tissue expander is replaced with a permanent implant in a second surgery.

Body tissue breast reconstruction (autologous breast reconstruction)

In this surgery, a patient’s own body tissue is used for breast reconstruction. This is often done in patients who do not have enough tissue to support a breast implant after mastectomy or radiation therapy. Tissue is taken from another part of the body to recreate breasts. The tissue used can be skin, fat and muscle. The tissue is most often taken from the belly or back. A doctor on the team can help evaluate and provide options that best fit the patient’s goals.

Nipple reconstruction

If a nipple must be removed in surgery, there are a variety of ways to reconstruct the nipple and areola. Both surgical and nonsurgical options are available. A common nonsurgical option is tattooing. Tattooing can be done alone to create a realistic nipple that appears to project. Tattooing can also be done along with surgery. This involves using your own skin to create the shape of the nipple, then the tattoo adds color that looks natural. Nipple and areola reconstruction is often done several weeks to months after the breast reconstruction. It can be done as an outpatient surgery, which lets the patient return home the same day as surgery.

Breast reduction

This surgery reduces the size of the breasts. It is often done for patients whose breasts are too large for their body frame. This condition is called macromastia. It can lead to upper back pain that impairs daily activities, rashes, infections, grooving in the shoulders from brassiere straps, as well as body dissatisfaction. Removing this excess breast tissue and moving the nipples to their proper position can help with these symptoms.


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