Breast Reconstruction

Treatment

What is Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

If your breast cancer treatment involves partial or total removal of one or both breasts, reconstructive surgery can help restore their look and shape. Breast reconstruction can also help boost your confidence and return a sense of normalcy after treatment. 

Types of Breast Reconstruction

Several types of reconstruction surgery are available to rebuild breasts and breast structures following mastectomy or lumpectomy. Your Mercy doctor will help you find out what’s right for you. There are two main types of breast reconstruction surgery.

The two main types of breast reconstruction surgery include:

  • Implants or prosthetics – Breasts can be rebuilt using silicone or saline implants which are inserted underneath the skin or chest muscle following a mastectomy. 
  • Autologous tissue reconstruction (or flap surgery) – Breasts can also be rebuilt using autologous tissue, tissue from other parts of your body. 

Implants and autologous tissue may be used together in breast reconstruction. In the final stage, a nipple and areola can be recreated if they weren’t preserved during the mastectomy.

Reconstructive surgery may be done at the time of your mastectomy or lumpectomy, which is known as immediate reconstruction. Or, you might need to wait until your other cancer treatments are finished, which is known as delayed reconstruction. 

What to Consider with Breast Reconstruction

You and your Mercy doctor should discuss all breast reconstruction options. Factors that may affect the type of reconstructive surgery you receive include:

  • Breast size and shape
  • Availability of autologous tissue (your own tissue)
  • Location and size of the tumor in the breast
  • Age and health condition
  • History of past surgeries
  • Surgical risk factors like smoking and obesity

What Factors Affect the Timing of Breast Reconstruction?

Radiation Therapy

If you need radiation therapy after your mastectomy or have medical conditions that impact healing, you may need to delay breast reconstruction.

Type of Breast Cancer

The type of breast cancer you have can also be a factor. Inflammatory breast cancer usually requires more extensive skin removal, which can make immediate reconstruction more challenging.

Breast Reconstruction Recovery

Your hospital stay after breast reconstruction surgery is generally two to five days. You’ll have drainage tubes in place to remove excess fluids from the surgical site, and your Mercy doctor will decide when it’s safe to remove them. You’ll also have stitches (sutures), but they’ll likely be absorbable and won’t need to be removed.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to heal. It can take six weeks or more to get back to your normal activities after breast reconstruction surgery.

Breasts After Reconstructive Surgery

Breast reconstruction can be a positive next step after breast cancer surgery. It brings balance back to your appearance, making you feel more confident in clothing and swimwear. 

Scars

After surgery, your breasts will have scars, but they usually fade over time. If you have flap surgery, you’ll also have a scar at the site where the tissue was removed.

Additional Surgeries 

Your new breasts will look different from your natural breasts and won’t have the same sensations. And you may need to have your nipple and areola reconstructed using skin grafts or 3D nipple tattooing.

If you had just one breast reconstructed, its size and shape might not match your opposite breast. You may be able to reduce, enlarge or lift your remaining breast to create an even look.

Minor revision surgeries such as fat grafting may also be required later.

A Patient’s View of Breast Reconstruction

Hear from breast cancer survivor Nicole Goodall, who received a double mastectomy, and her Mercy Clinic plastic surgeon, Louis Brunworth, MD. Experience Nicole’s path from breast reconstructive surgery to recovery.

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