Breast Reconstruction

What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that restores shape to your breast after mastectomy – surgery that removes your breast to treat or prevent breast cancer.

This is done using a breast implant, or tissue from another part of the body. Breast reconstruction aims to recreate a natural appearance in the breast area following the traumatic loss of breast tissue. Breast reconstruction won’t re-create the exact look and feel of your natural breast. However, the contour of your new breast may restore a silhouette similar to what you had before mastectomy.

With improved treatments, breast reconstruction techniques and new medical devices, there are many options. Surgeons can recreate a breast at the time of mastectomy or after you have had a mastectomy. They can also correct misshapen breasts that may result after breast conservation surgery.

Deciding which reconstruction method is best for you will be discussed during your consultation with the plastic surgeon, who will consider your personal preferences, as well as body shape, prior surgeries, current medical condition and cancer treatment needs. All reconstructive options have both risks and benefits, and each option usually requires multiple procedures to reach a final result.


Who Is a Good Candidate for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

  • Diagnosed with breast cancer and had or will have a mastectomy (surgical removal of a breast).
  • Diagnosed with breast cancer and had or will have breast conservation surgery, such as partial mastectomy or lumpectomy (surgical removal of the tumor and surrounding breast tissue).
  • Found to have a genetic mutation and will have prophylactic mastectomy (removal of non-cancerous breast to prevent cancer).

An initial consultation with surgeon will help to determine if breast reconstruction is right for you.


How Should You Prepare for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

At your consultation, your surgeon will assess your physical and emotional health, review your health history, and discuss your goals. He/she will recommend a course of treatment to help you meet your goals and explain the various surgical options available to you, the potential risks and complications, and the likely outcomes. Any questions that you may have can be brought up at this time.

Your surgeon will tell you how to adequately prepare for the procedure by giving you guidelines on what you can eat/drink, as well as what medications and vitamins to take.

You can reduce your risks by closely following your physician’s advice both before and after surgery.


How Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Performed?

Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed immediately after the initial mastectomy (or surgical removal of the breast) or at any point after the loss of breast tissue. The breast tissue may be formed using silicone or saline breast implants, such as those used for cosmetic breast augmentation procedures. This procedure may also be performed using donor skin, muscle, and fat from the back, buttocks, or other areas of the body. Using donor tissue can replicate a more natural tissue texture, though it also requires a donor site and additional healing time.

Breast reconstruction surgery usually takes two to six hours and is performed with general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation. Time requirements vary depending on the method of surgery chosen, and the extent of work needed. A flap or incision is created in the skin to allow the surgeon to place implants or donor tissue in the chest region. This tissue is then sculpted into natural contours.


What Is Recovery Like After Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

Following breast reconstruction, most patients experience pain, soreness, or tenderness, in addition to bruising and swelling. All are common side effects following any invasive surgical procedure, and can be expected to subside within two weeks. During this time, a compression garment or surgical bra must be worn to promote healing and reduce post-operative swelling. Most patients return to their normal activity level within two to four weeks following breast reconstruction surgery.


Will the Results of Breast Reconstruction Surgery Be Permanent?

Breast reconstruction results usually offer comfort to patients, as they improve overall appearance and contour. However, if you only have one breast reconstructed, it will likely have a different shape and firmness than the natural breast does. Some women at same time or later have surgery on the natural breast to achieve better balance. The breast reconstruction surgery results are very long-lasting to permanent.
Are There Any Possible Complications From This Procedure?

When surgery is performed by a qualified surgeon, complications are rare and usually minor. Nevertheless, as with any surgery, there are potential complications and risks. Your consultation is crucial. Your physician will spend time discussing these with you during your scheduled consultation. Be sure to bring a list of questions or concerns with you. All patients are instructed to discuss the general surgical risks with their surgeon.

You can reduce your risks by closely following your physician’s advice both before and after surgery.