Breast Reconstruction after Mastectomy: A Look at the Options

Woman Breast
Photo by Gabriel Sanchez

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is an overwhelming and emotional experience. What’s important to remember is that you do still have choices and will be able to restore your breasts once you are ready and the cancer has been removed.

For those who do want to reconstruct their breasts following a mastectomy, there are two options to consider.

Reconstruction Using Implants

There are a few different approaches that can be taken when considering reconstruction using implants, depending on your body shape and desired outcome. Implant-based reconstruction is ideal for women who want two matching breasts or want to reconstruct one breast to match the existing breast.

To achieve this, tissue expanders are used to slowly stretch the tissue of the chest until eventually, an implant can be placed. This means patients would need to be willing to undergo two surgeries, one to place the expander and another to place the implant. Bi-weekly visits to your surgeon’s offices will also be required in order to add fluid to the expanders.

Patients who have enough skin left after their mastectomy might be able to choose a second option that incorporates tissue grown in a lab. The tissue is used to create a pocket that can be used to insert the implant.

Reconstruction Using Tissue

The second option that will be presented to you during your consultation at a clinic such as is reconstruction using body tissue. To complete a reconstruction using this method, excess tissue is removed from a different area of the body in order to recreate the breast mound. This is an ideal option for women who would prefer using natural tissue and not implants or who simply want to create a breast that matches an existing one.

Patients who decide on this option will be able to choose from a TRAM, free TRAM, DIEP, free gluteal or thigh flap. Each of these flap options requires your surgeon to remove tissue from a different area of the body or use a very specific technique to do so.

Recovering from Breast Reconstruction: The Basics

Breast reconstruction is an outpatient procedure that requires at least a month if not six weeks of recovery time. This doesn’t mean that you will need to be at home the entire time, it simply means you will only be able to resume your normal routine after six weeks.

Patients who decide to undergo reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy will more than likely require a brief hospital stay. If tissue reconstruction is chosen, there is also a chance that patients may require a hospital stay since the procedure is more in-depth and more than one area needs to be healed.

It should also be noted that implant reconstruction patients may require a second surgery later on should complications with the implants arise. The implants may also need to be replaced after 10 years.

Reconstruction is a Personal Choice

Know that there is no reason to rush this decision and you should take all of your options into consideration before you go ahead. Find a surgeon who deals with breast reconstruction to benefit from their experience.