Breast Reconstruction

It’s important to understand that nearly every woman treated for breast cancer has choices. After a mastectomy (an operation to remove the breast), some women decide to wear a breast form (prosthesis). Others prefer to have breast reconstruction, plastic surgery that rebuilds the shape of a breast. This surgery is not a risk factor for the recurrence of breast cancer, and has no negative effect on the treatment of disease. It can be done at the same time as the mastectomy or several months or even years after. Usually, a plastic surgeon performs the procedure.

Breast reconstruction is major surgery, with the risks, discomforts and recuperation period of most major surgery. It does not give you back your breast, nor will a reconstructed breast have natural sensation. But it can be a powerfully positive force in the psychological and emotional recovery of a woman who has had a mastectomy.

The Strong Health plastic surgeons’ goal in breast reconstruction is to help you look and feel as natural as possible, as painlessly as possible. Among other things, this means both breasts should look the same, having the same size and shape.

Procedures to Reconstruct the Breast

Several different procedures can be used to reconstruct the breast. Some use implants, a silicone shell filled with either a saline (salt water) solution or a silicone gel. Others use a “flap” of tissue from another part of the body, such as the abdomen or back, either alone or with an implant. The major procedures, explained below, are:

No procedure is necessarily “better” than another; the choice depends on each woman’s individual circumstances. In some cases, a particular procedure may not be medically appropriate. For example, women who have had a skin-sparing mastectomy need to choose one of the “flap” procedures; they can’t choose a tissue expander or a breast implant alone.

Obviously, you should consult with your doctors to help you decide what procedure to have, if any, and when. It’s best to do this before the mastectomy, even if reconstruction won’t be considered until later.

More information about breast cancer

How to Choose the Best Plastic Surgeon

Here are some important guidelines to follow for choosing the most qualified plastic surgeon:

Make sure the surgeon is board certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery

The surgeon should have special training in breast surgery, often called fellowship training

Make sure that the plastic surgeon is affiliated with a accredited hospital

Ask the plastic surgeon to provide photos of patients who have had surgery from them

Make sure that the plastic surgeon is trained in the latest breast reconstruction techniques and procedures

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