Should I Get Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
After breast cancer treatment, Breast reconstruction helps women become physically and emotionally whole again. Breast Reconstruction restores something that nature once provided but cancer has taken away. Unfortunately, many patients with breast cancer who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy are not given the option of breast reconstruction.
Regardless of the type of breast cancer surgery, women have a variety of reconstruction options. After a mastectomy, options include: breast implants (saline or silicone) or natural autologous tissue (skin and fat from a patient’s own body). Breast reconstruction can be used with a lumpectomy to improve aesthetic outcomes and maintain breast symmetry. This is known as “Oncoplastic surgery.”
Immediate vs Delayed Breast Reconstruction
Immediate reconstruction is performed at the exact same time as the mastectomy and provides the best potential cosmetic outcome. The natural breast skin is preserved “skin-sparing mastectomy” and there is minimal scarring. In rare circumstances, a nipple-sparing mastectomy is possible, which preserves the nipple, areola, and breast skin.
Delayed reconstruction typically takes place several months after the mastectomy. Patients who are going through radiation may be advised to postpone reconstructive surgery in order to achieve the best results. This delay might last several months. This allows the chest tissues to repair as quickly as possible following the radiation treatment. Some other reasons for delaying reconstruction include advanced disease (stage III or IV) and lack of access to a reconstructive surgeon.
Reasons for Breast Reconstruction
A woman may choose to undergo breast reconstruction for several different reasons:
- To look and feel balanced when she is wearing a bra or swimsuit.
- To help clothes fit better.
- To recover her breast shape.
- To feel better about herself.
Scars from breast reconstruction are common, however, they normally diminish with time. Scarring has also been decreased due to newer techniques. When wearing a bra, your breasts should be similar in size and form so you feel confident about how you look.
Breast reconstruction can help you feel better about your appearance and reclaim your self-confidence after a mastectomy. It’s important to keep in mind that the rebuilt breast will not be an exact match or replacement for your natural breast. If tissue from your abdomen, back, or buttocks was utilized in the reconstruction, those regions will change following surgery as well. Make sure to discuss with your surgeon about potential scars, changes in shape, changes in sensation, and how they will feel once they heal.
When discussing options with your plastic surgeon, make sure that all options are discussed and that your surgeon is very experienced in breast reconstruction. Ask to see pictures of their work and for patient testimonials.
Potential Risks of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Breast reconstruction, like any type of surgery, comes with its own set of risks. Some of the possible risks during or immediately after surgery, include:
- Fatigue (most common)
- Wound healing problems (sometimes occurs)
- Infection (sometimes occurs)
- Blood clots or bleeding (uncommon)
- Problems with anesthesia (uncommon)
Problems that might arise later:
- Loss of sensation in the breast
- Loss of muscle strength
- Uneven breasts
- Capsular contracture with implant-based reconstruction
You Are Not Alone
Whatever option you choose, it’s important to know there is support available to help you understand your reconstruction options and cope with the changes you are experiencing. A good place to start is by talking to your doctor or other members of your healthcare team.
At PRMA, we host a bi-monthly Pink Ladies Breast Cancer Support Group meeting for women in all stages of their breast cancer and breast reconstruction journey. There are also many other organizations and groups that meet regularly for patients to connect with each other. For more information on your local support groups contact your local American Cancer Society.
It is a great honor to be part of a team with such a rich tradition of excellent patient care, shares Dr. Andrew Gassman, the newest surgeon to join the PRMA team. Years and years of procedure fine tuning with individualized care means our patients truly benefit from both efficiency and experience.