If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re probably thinking, where do I go from here? As you consider your options for surgery and treatment, you might also be considering breast reconstruction surgery. After a mastectomy, breast reconstruction can help restore your sense of self-image, balance and femininity.
But keep in mind that every woman is different. Whether to have reconstruction, and what that might look like for you, is a personal choice. It’s important to be informed so you can feel confident discussing your options and goals with your physician.
Let’s break down the most common questions I hear from women considering breast reconstruction surgery.
What are the types of breast reconstruction?
There are multiple forms of breast reconstruction. Some use implants, some use tissue and some involve a combination of both. Regardless of the type, the goal is always to help restore breast shape after a mastectomy.
- Implant reconstruction involves inserting an implant that is filled with saline or silicone gel. Your surgeon will place the implant under or above your chest muscle and skin to create a breast mound. However, if you have had radiation or may have radiation after your mastectomy, an implant may not be an option for you. Recovery for this type of reconstruction is typically easier, but may require multiple procedures.
- Tissue-based reconstruction, also referred to as a tissue flap, uses tissue harvested from another part of your body (typically your belly, thigh or back) to fill in the area of your breast missing tissue. One benefit to a tissue flap is that it may give you a more natural look than an implant, typically lasts longer and does not require maintenance.
When should I have breast reconstruction?
Timing of breast reconstruction is flexible. It can be done at the same time as your mastectomy, or you may choose to wait until months or even years after your cancer care is complete. Timing is completely up to you, but in certain situations, it may be based on medical reasons. Be sure to talk to your doctor to find the best timing for your health needs.
Is breast reconstruction safe?
For the most part, reconstruction does not hinder the ability to detect future tumors and does not increase your risk of recurrence. Many women find breast reconstruction significantly improves their self-confidence and quality of life after their cancer journey.
As with any surgical procedure, it is important to make your doctors aware of all of your health needs and history when having this surgery, as some factors like smoking can increase your risk of complication.
Is reconstruction covered by insurance?
Breast reconstruction is often covered by insurance, even on the side that doesn’t involve cancer. Many women may need matching procedures involving either reconstruction, augmentation, reduction or a breast lift to help create a balanced look.
How do I know if I should have reconstruction?
It is important to consult with your physician and think logically about your personal life and goals. You should have your cancer evaluated to determine its aggressiveness and evaluate what your general health considerations are. You should also take inventory of your personal and family needs, as these may help you decide if breast reconstruction is for you, and when might be the best time to take that step.
Considering breast reconstruction? Find a plastic surgeon near you.