What is the best timing for breast reconstruction surgery?
By: Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo
In terms of the psycho-social benefits and cosmetic results, breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy is preferred whenever possible.
"Immediate reconstruction" is the term used when reconstruction is performed at the same time as the mastectomy. "Delayed reconstruction" usually takes place several months after the mastectomy but there is no set time limit. Reconstruction can be performed literally years after the mastectomy.
Immediate reconstruction enables the patient to wake up from the surgery "complete" and avoid the experience of a flat chest completely. Most women with early breast cancer (stage I or II) are candidates. Immediate breast reconstruction is generally associated with more natural results, and less scarring.
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. For many women, the reconstructive process can therefore take many months to complete.
Patients having radiation may be advised to delay the surgery for the best cosmetic results. This is because radiation can sometimes damage the reconstruction if the reconstruction is performed first. Much depends on the radiation oncologist's experience in treating breast reconstruction patients. Delaying the reconstruction also allows the chest tissues to heal as much as possible after the radiation. Other reasons for delaying reconstruction include advanced disease (stage III or IV), lack of access to a reconstructive surgeon, or patient preference.