Deciding whether to have the breasts reconstructed after a mastectomy is a highly personal decision. The information below can help inform women about breast reconstructive surgery and may help them determine whether it is right for their situation and needs.
What is Breast Reconstructive Surgery?
Breast reconstructive surgery recreates the breasts after they have been altered because of disease, injury, or malformation. This surgery is often done after women have breast tissue removed in a mastectomy procedure. Breast reconstructive surgery can give women normal looking and healthy breasts again.
Immediate or Delayed Reconstruction
Women can opt for either immediate or delayed breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. If women choose to have immediate reconstruction, their breasts will be reconstructed at the same time as the mastectomy. This offers the advantages of having just one anesthesia and one surgery. If women aren’t ready to undergo breast reconstruction immediately after mastectomy, they can choose to return for the reconstructive surgery later. Delaying the reconstruction may be best for women who are still undergoing treatment for breast cancer. There is usually no rush to have the breast reconstruction, so women can schedule the surgery when it feels right for them.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
There are two different options in breast reconstruction today: Breast implants and tissue flap procedures.
Breast Implants are made from either saline or silicone. One stage implants are placed immediately after the mastectomy. These implants can be expanded over time, so they won’t have to be removed and re-inserted. The one stage procedure uses a synthetic muscle substitute, Alloderm, which helps keep the implant in place. Two stage breast implants use a tissue expander to gradually stretch out the muscles and tissue to make a pocket for the implants. Once the implant pocket is created, the patient returns for the implant insertion surgery.
Tissue Flap Procedures are an option for women who have enough extra skin, muscle, and fat to form new breasts. Tissue flap procedures take fat, skin, and muscle from the belly (the Transverse Rectus Abdominis Myocutaneous flap surgery,) the back (the latissimus flap reconstruction,) or the buttocks (the TUG flap reconstruction or the Gluteal flap reconstruction.) This procedure is more complex than breast implant reconstruction and usually, includes a longer recovery period.
What to Expect with Results
Reconstructed breasts can be beautiful and very natural looking, but it is important that women have realistic expectations. Reconstructed breasts don’t have the same ability to feel the same sensation as the original breasts did. There will always be visible incision lines, although these can fade a great deal over time. If only one breast was reconstructed, patients might want to consider a procedure on the natural breast, for example, a breast lift or a breast augmentation, to improve overall symmetry and appearance.
Is This Procedure Considered Cosmetic or Reconstructive?
For women who have a mastectomy due to cancer, breast reconstruction is typically classified as a reconstructive procedure and is thus covered by most insurance providers. Patients should talk to their insurance provider for details specific to their policy.
How to Choose the Best Surgeon for You
Ready to talk to an expert? Dr. Nathan Patterson and the entire team at Patterson Plastic Surgery is available to support and guide patients through breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Click below to arrange a consultation with Dr. Patterson.