5 Things You May Not Know About “Delayed” Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction, regardless of the procedure, can be performed at the time of a mastectomy (called immediate reconstruction) or some time after a mastectomy (called delayed reconstruction). There are a variety of reasons why a patient may not undergo immediate reconstruction. These include personal choice, lack of access to a plastic surgeon, limited knowledge of the procedures available, the need to prioritize breast cancer treatment, and the presence of other significant medical problems that may increase the risk of a longer surgery.
To help individuals considering delayed reconstruction surgery, whether it’s been 15 minutes or 15 years since their mastectomy, we have compiled a list of the top 5 things you should know about delayed reconstruction.
1) Breast reconstruction can be performed any time after a mastectomy.
Although already mentioned above, it is important to stress that breast reconstruction can be performed ANY TIME after the initial breast cancer surgery. There is absolutely no deadline. The best timing for reconstruction is when it’s best for YOU.
2) There is more than one option for delayed breast reconstruction.
Although it is the most commonly performed method of reconstruction performed in the world today, procedures using tissue expanders and/or breast implants are not the only option available.
Advanced surgical techniques (referred to as “flap” procedures) make it possible for patients to use their own living tissue to recreate a breast following a mastectomy. Tissue can be used from the thighs, buttock, lower abdomen and/or back. At PRMA, our most commonly performed method of reconstruction is the DIEP flap. The procedure uses the patient’s own skin and fat from the lower abdomen. Patients not only benefit from a flatter abdomen, but they also enjoy a warm, soft, natural new breast.
Delayed breast reconstruction is typically associated with more viable scarring compared to immediate reconstruction. However, when combining advanced surgical techniques along with amazing scar treatment technologies, scars are less noticeable and can be hidden beneath clothing and swimsuits.
3) It is possible to restore sensation.
You heard correctly! Patients today can regain sensation in the chest and newly reconstructed breast following a mastectomy! Although it will never be what Mother Nature provided, reconnecting nerves during “flap” based procedures is possible and is helping women get one more piece of their bodies back that breast cancer tried to steal away.
4) Radiation does not disqualify you from being a breast reconstruction candidate.
We hear from patients all the time that they believed they could never have breast reconstruction because of their prior history of radiation treatments. This is a big misconception! True, breast reconstruction and radiation do not mix well, but reconstruction can be safely performed as early as six weeks following treatments. Following radiation, we do recommend flap-based procedures. This is largely because implant reconstruction has a 1 in 3 risk of failure for patients with a history of radiation.
5) Even if breast reconstruction is delayed for many years, it is still covered by health insurance.
Thanks to the passing of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) by Congress in ’98, breast reconstruction is now mandated by Federal Law to be covered by insurance if the cost of mastectomy is covered. Even years following the mastectomy, breast reconstruction is still covered.
If you are considering delayed breast reconstruction and want to learn more about your personal options, we highly recommend consulting with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons via our VIRTUAL CONSULTATION.
Author: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo and Courtney Floyd
reast reconstruction, regardless of the procedure, can be performed at the time of a mastectomy (called immediate reconstruction) or some time after a mastectomy (called delayed reconstruction).