If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and you are scheduled to have a mastectomy, your doctor may also discuss your options regarding reconstructive plastic surgery.
Breast reconstruction can help restore the appearance of your breasts by replacing the breast tissue to regain the symmetrical appearance of one or both breasts. The degree of reconstruction necessary will depend on the location and size of the tumor that is being removed.
Women’s Imaging Specialists have compiled some of the most important questions you will need to consider.
Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Right for Me?
For many women the stigma and emotions associated with living without a breast can have detrimental effects on their physical and psychological well being. One of the most important things to remember is that the choice to have breast reconstruction surgery is a personal one.
Breast reconstruction is certainly not your only option; many women choose to wear external breast prosthetics that can be worn with a special bra while others choose to live without making any changes at all.
Your surgeon will discuss the options available to you including using your own tissue or by introducing breast implants to restore the appearance of your breasts. Your surgeon will also discuss the psychological benefits including your personal sense of wellness and fulfillment.
Best Time to Schedule Breast Reconstruction Surgery; Immediately, Same Time as Mastectomy or After Radiation?
Your existing medical conditions and existing cancer treatment are both factors that your surgeon will discuss with you before scheduling your operation.
Your surgeon may advise that the surgery be performed at the same time that your mastectomy is performed or he or she may determine that the reconstructive phase of your surgery be finalized at a later date.
For example if you are in the process of receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments, it is recommended that you postpone reconstruction until after these treatments have been completed.
Types of Reconstructive Surgery for Breasts
You doctor will discuss the various options available to you which may include:
Breast Implants: The process of breast implants after breast removal involves stretching the remaining skin with a tissue expander before inserting a silicone gel or saline implant.
The process is typically completed over 6 to 10 office visits as the expander is filled to the necessary volume. While many women find this a painful process, patients are typically well pleased with the final results.
On the down side, it is possible for the implants to rupture which can cause pain and infection and result in the need for addition surgeries to remove or replace the implant.
Tissue Flap Procedures: This procedure involves the use of a woman’s own tissue typically harvested from the abdomen, back, thighs or buttocks to create a pocket that can be used to reconstruct the breast.
The tissue is often reconnected to a blood supply that is located close to the site of its new location.
Nipple Reconstruction: Another surgery option which a woman may consider, as the nipple and the area surrounding the nipple (areola) are often removed during the mastectomy procedure to lower the risk of the breast cancer returning.
Once your breast reconstruction has been completed and the new tissue has healed, your surgeon can remove a small amount of tissue which is tattooed to resemble the color of a nipple before attaching it to the breast.
Another option is a prosthetic nipple which can be temporarily glued and re-glued to the breast when needed.
How Long Does it Take to Perform Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
The preparation time for surgery is typically two hours. Once your procedure begins, you can expect the reconstruction surgery to take between one to six hours to perform.
Once the surgery is completed you will be taken to recovery before being transferred to your hospital room.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery Recovery Time; What to Expect
It normal to experience discomfort the first couple days after surgery. Your doctor will administer pain medication and the hospital staff will closely monitor your recovery.
You will be encouraged to perform some simple exercises such as moving your arms but you will not be allowed to pull, push or lift heavy objects. Your nurse will assist you in and out of bed as needed.
You will have drains at the incision site and you will also be given instructions on how to care for them if they are still in place after you are discharged. The total length of your hospital stay will depend of the type and extent of your surgery.
For example breast implants typically require a one to two day stay in hospital, while flap procedures may require a five to six day stay. Once you arrive home, it is normal to experience swelling, soreness and bruising.
You surgeon will provide you with after care instructions explaining the care and maintenance of the incision sites. You will continue to be under the care of your surgeon and attend regular appointments to monitor your recovery.
Breast Cancer Early Detection Ultrasounds, 2D Standard & 3D Mammograms in Athens-Oconee, Watkinsville & Eagles Landing, Stockbridge, Georgia
Once you have been cleared from the care of your doctor you will be instructed to perform monthly self-checks of your breasts along with attending your annual mammograms appointments. Contact Women’s Imaging Specialists or schedule your yearly mammogram today!
About the author: Raja P. Reddy, MD is a board certified diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging. He is also a contributing editor for Women’s Imaging Specialists, a leading provider of outpatient women’s imaging services in the greater Atlanta, GA area.
Women’s Imaging Specialists offers Mammograms and Ultrasounds at locations in Athens, GA; Cumming, GA; Dublin, GA; Eagles Landing, GA; Fairhope, AL; Gulf Shores, Al; Gwinnett, GA; Monroe, GA; and Warner Robins, GA.