All You Need to Know About Post-Mastectomy Breast Reconstruction Procedures
If you’re a woman who’s had a mastectomy to treat breast cancer, then you may have considered breast reconstruction surgery. A breast reconstruction can improve your self-confidence and bring a sense of normalcy back into your life. At Northeastern Plastic Surgery, we’re experts when it comes to post-mastectomy surgery and we wanted to let you know about the options available to you if you’re thinking about breast reconstruction.
The Types of Breast Reconstruction
There are two main types of breast reconstruction:
- Breast implant procedures use silicone or saline breast inserts to recreate the breasts. Women may choose to have the implants inserted at the time of the mastectomy in what is called an immediate breast reconstruction. The other option is to have a delayed breast reconstruction procedure, which starts the rebuilding of the breasts after the cancer surgery is complete. The benefit of immediate reconstruction is that breast skin is often preserved, which can produce better-looking results. However, women who need to undergo radiation therapy after their mastectomy should opt for the delayed breast reconstruction.
- Tissue flap procedures (also known as autologous tissue reconstruction) use tissue from other parts of the patient’s body, such as the belly, back, thighs, or buttocks to rebuild the breast shape. Tissue flaps generally look more natural and behave more like natural breast tissue than breast implants.
Sometimes, these procedures are used in combination to reconstruct the breasts. As with any surgery, you should learn as much as possible about the benefits and risks, and discuss them with your doctor, before deciding on which option is best.
Nipple and Areola Reconstruction
Nipple and areola reconstruction is a separate surgery altogether, usually scheduled 3 to 4 months after breast reconstruction surgery. The surgeon will use tissue from the the newly created breast or, less often, from another body part (such as the inner thigh) to recreate a nipple and areola. This procedure is done for aesthetic purposes only; the newly formed nipple and areola do not have any sensation.
Tattooing may be done to approximate the natural color of the nipple and areola a few months after the reconstruction. Some women opt to have just the tattoo, without nipple and areola reconstruction.
Important Questions and Considerations
It’s very important to have a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon before making any decisions about breast reconstruction. Your surgeon will review your medical history and overall health and will explain which reconstructive options might be best for you based on your age, health, body type, lifestyle, smoking habits, appearance expectations, and other factors. Talk with your surgeon openly about your preferences. Be sure to voice any concerns you may have and ask lots of questions.
Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask:
- What are the pros and cons of undergoing reconstruction surgery at the same time as my mastectomy versus undergoing surgery post-mastectomy?
- Will reconstruction interfere with chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
- What type of reconstruction do you think would be best for me? Why?
- What’s the average cost of each type of surgery? Will my insurance cover any of the costs?
- How long will it take me to recover?
- What results can I expect?
- Can I see before and after pictures of previous patients?
- Could I have the nipple reconstructed if I choose to? How would this be done?
- Will I have any feeling in my reconstructed breast(s)?
- How extensive will the scarring be?
- What are the chances I will experience complications?
- How will aging affect my breasts?
This is by no means a complete list of questions. You’ll likely have many more. Be sure to write them down so you don’t forget to ask. Any reputable plastic surgeon will gladly take the time to calmly answer all of your questions and ensure that you are completely informed.
Having breast reconstruction surgery is a big decision that shouldn’t be rushed into. Give yourself plenty of time to weigh your options so you know you’re making the best decision for you.
Northeastern Plastic Surgery understands your desire for a beautiful, youthful looking body and facial appearance. We use the latest plastic surgery techniques to perform a variety of surgical procedures. Dr. Fodero and the staff are very friendly, helpful, and available to answer any questions you may have. Please contact us today to learn more about the services we offer.