Facing a diagnosis of breast cancer is a terrifying time for any woman. And the amount of information you are given can be overwhelming. This brief outline will help you understand how breast reconstruction works.
During your visit, Dr. Greer or Dr. Blanchard will help guide you through the options to arrive at a plan that is right for you. We recommend you bring a friend or family member to your visit to take notes.
What are the Types of Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction can be described by either when it is done (timing), or what type of reconstruction is done.
- Immediate reconstruction – this describes reconstruction done at the same time as your breast cancer surgery. The advantage to immediate reconstruction is starting your reconstruction off sooner, and possibly having fewer operations.
- Delayed reconstruction – this type of reconstruction is done as a separate operation from your breast cancer surgery. It can be done weeks or even years later.
Which type is right for me?
Many patients prefer to have as few operations as possible, while others are not emotionally ready to proceed with reconstruction. Some patients will have radiation as part of their cancer treatment, and in this case we often delay reconstruction until after radiation is completed.
Type of reconstruction
- Using your own tissue (autologous reconstruction) – Autologous reconstruction uses muscle and skin from either your back (latissimus flap) or stomach (TRAM flap) to replace your missing breast tissue. This can be done at the same time as your breast cancer operation, or as a delayed reconstruction. Using your own tissue means that the reconstructed breast will change size naturally as you gain and lose weight. But the trade-off is a longer initial recovery.
- Using implants – Reconstruction using breast implants can also be done immediately, or after a delay. In either case, a temporary expander is first placed. This is a type of breast implant that is slowly inflated over time. Skin is taken out with a mastectomy, making it difficult to fit a full-sized breast implant under the skin that is left. When you have an expander placed, a small amount of saline is injected every week in our office. Your skin slowly stretches out, and you actually grow new skin. After the expander is fully filled, it is exchanged for a breast implant.
Implant-based breast reconstruction often has a shorter recovery time compared to reconstruction that uses your own tissue. But it does mean two operations. And implants do not last a lifetime- they often need to be changed out for new implants after five or ten years. This is something you can discuss in detail with Dr. Blanchard or Dr. Greer during your consultation, as you both choose which option is right for you.
Other things to know:
- After surgery to reconstruct your breast, you may go home with a drain. This is a small tube that helps remove fluid from the site of your surgery. If so, you will be given instructions on how to take care of the drain, as well as a log to record the drainage.
- If you have reconstruction on one breast, you may need a lift (mastopexy) or reduction on the other side to make your breasts more symmetrical.
- Reconstructing your nipple is the last stage of any breast reconstruction. Some women choose to have their nipple reconstructed, and some do not. It is an entirely personal decision. If you decide to have your nipple reconstructed, this is a separate procedure that is done at least six months after your breast reconstruction is complete.
Would you like more information? You can read more at the American Society of Plastic Surgery website, or call our office for more information.
Before and After Photos***
***All patient results may vary, these procedures are for cosmetic purposes only and results are not guaranteed, nor are permanent. All patients are different and in no way will any procedures be alike, nor the recovery period.