Breast Reconstruction Can Be Performed Any Time, Even Years After Mastectomy
By: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo
Is it too late for breast reconstruction?
Did you know breast reconstruction can be performed at any time, even years after a mastectomy?
“Immediate breast reconstruction” is performed at the same time as the mastectomy and typically provides the most natural results with the least amount of scarring. Unfortunately, for many women this simply isn’t an option.
In 2009, studies showed that 70% of women facing mastectomy were not told that reconstruction was an option. Many women underwent mastectomy only to find out some time later that they could have woken up from their surgery with new breasts instead of having to experience a flat chest. Thankfully, breast reconstruction education has improved significantly over the last few years.
Of the women who are informed, some may not have access to a reconstructive plastic surgeon where they live and have to travel for reconstruction, particularly for more complex tissue reconstruction options like the DIEP flap.
Other women may not be candidates for immediate reconstruction because unfortunately the breast cancer is too advanced at the time of diagnosis.
Sometimes radiation therapy is recommended as part of the breast cancer treatment. Most plastic surgeons still prefer to hold off on reconstruction until the patient is several months out from her last radiation therapy. This allows the tissues to recover and soften up as much as possible to improve the results of the subsequent reconstruction.
As you can see, there are several reasons why a women wanting breast reconstruction may not be able to have it at the same time as the mastectomy.
Whatever the reason for delay may be, it is important to remember there is no time limit when it comes to breast reconstruction – it can be performed at any time, even years after mastectomy.
Whether the reconstructive process is started at the time of the mastectomy ("immediate") or some time after ("delayed'), it important for patients to realize that in most cases, further surgery is required to complete the reconstructive process and achieve the best cosmetic results.
Like immediate reconstruction, “delayed breast reconstruction” is also covered by insurance regardless of how many years have passed since the breast cancer diagnosis.