What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast Reconstruction is most commonly done after breast cancer, to restore form after a mastectomy. It can be a tremendously rewarding experience for a woman to feel whole again after her mastectomy, however many women have misconceptions about breast reconstruction and what is involved in the process. Sometimes they have a mastectomy and do not realize that reconstruction is an option.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
Broadly we divide reconstruction into implant based and autologous (using one’s own tissue). There is no right answer but depending on your body type you may be a better candidate for one or another.
- Implant Based Reconstruction:
With implant based reconstruction the doctor places a tissue expander into the breast pocket under the muscle. After this first surgery the expander is inflated with saline solution until your breast regains an acceptable size. Then in a second surgery the expander is switched to an implant. In a third surgery a nipple can be created. The entire process takes 6-9 months total on average.
- Autologous Reconstruction:
Using autologous reconstruction we borrow tissue from either the back muscle (latissimus) or the abdomen to reshape the breast. This reconstruction can look more natural but is typically a longer surgery. Other operations to create the nipple can be done. If the reconstruction is only one sided, we sometimes do a breast lift (mastopexy) on the non-cancer side.
Breast Reconstruction Process
Your surgeon will be ideally be involved before you have your mastectomy. This is because often we do reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction). There are also important decisions to consider when deciding on reconstruction, like radiation and where we place scars. If they cover the mastectomy they should cover procedures related to reconstruction such as tissue expander, implants, nipple reconstruction, and breast lift. Please ask about your options for coverage regarding reconstruction, and do not assume your insurance will not cover.
Breast Reconstruction Recovery
Recovery can vary based on the type of procedure used for the breast reconstruction and if the reconstruction immediately followed a mastectomy. Patients typically will stay in the hospital from 1 to 6 days. Recovery takes between 3 to 6 weeks and patients will be tired and sore for 1 to 2 weeks. Compression garments are worn after surgery, and stitches are removed after about a week. A surgical drain may be left in place to prevent a buildup of fluid in the reconstructed breast. The drain would be removed within 1 or 2 weeks.
Results of Breast Reconstruction
Your surgeon will attempt to match the size, shape, position, and other attributes of the remaining breast, but an exact match is not possible. The surgeon with try to achieve symmetry and make the reconstructed breast look as identical as possible to the remaining breast. To achieve this symmetry, the remaining breast may be operated on to make it bigger, smaller. or to lift it. The reconstructed breast will have little sensation.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are looking to have a mastectomy or breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, call (903) 893-6311 for more information or to schedule a consultation at Swamy Clinic. Our practice serves Sherman, McKinney, and surrounding areas in Texas.