Reconstruction of breasts that have been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available for women today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to a natural breast. Frequently, breast reconstruction starts immediately following breast removal (mastectomy).
Choosing immediate or delayed breast reconstruction
If and when you will have breast reconstruction following a mastectomy is your personal decision. Many women choose to meet with a plastic surgeon prior to scheduling a mastectomy, so that they have the option of having both procedures performed at the same time, a procedure known as immediate breast reconstruction. This approach provides the advantage of fewer surgeries for the patient and often results in a better aesthetic outcome.
Other women may not want to think about reconstruction while coping with a cancer diagnosis, and may choose to wait until later to start considering reconstructive surgery. This approach, known as delayed breast reconstruction, is also sometimes necessary in women who need further radiation treatment following a mastectomy.
In any case, being informed of your reconstruction options before surgery can help you prepare for a mastectomy with a more positive outlook for the future.
How does breast reconstruction work?
Breast reconstruction uses a combination of plastic surgery techniques to restore a breast to near its normal size, shape, and appearance. Your surgeon may also recommend a procedure known as two-stage reconstruction, in which tissue expanders are placed under the skin to expand the skin over a period of several months. After the skin has stretched enough, breast implants can be placed during a second procedure.
Depending on your individual needs and desired outcome, your surgeon may recommend breast implants or reconstruction using tissue taken from another area of your body, such as the back or abdomen.
The best candidates for breast reconstruction
Most mastectomy patients are medically appropriate for breast reconstruction. The best candidates for breast reconstruction are women whose cancer has been seemingly eliminated by mastectomy.