The loss of one or both of your breasts from cancer-related
mastectomy can be devastating, but reconstruction surgery is available to
restore the appearance of your breasts and nipples. Breast reconstruction can involve
a combination of implants, transplanted tissue, and medical tattooing to
achieve physically and aesthetically pleasing results.
How breast reconstruction is performed
There are two types of breast reconstruction—implant
reconstruction that uses silicone or saline implants placed under your chest
muscle, and autologous/flap reconstruction that uses transplanted tissue from other
areas of your body to recreate your breasts.
Breast reconstruction surgery can involve one or both of
these techniques, and can be done during your mastectomy or in later surgeries.
Your health team will help you decide which options are best for you.
reconstruction can be a shorter and less complex surgery, and may be a
better option if you want to avoid the extra incisions and scarring from flap
reconstruction. It may be difficult matching your implant with your natural
breast, and implants can sometimes cause future complications. It’s not unusual
to require some type of revision or implant replacement surgery after ten years
reconstruction can produce a more natural feeling breast, and most women won’t
need any future surgeries. Flap reconstruction surgery is more involved though;
it requires tissue to be transplanted from areas such as your abdomen or
buttocks to your chest. This can mean more scarring and a longer recovery.
Nipple and areola reconstruction
Nipple and areola
reconstruction is performed by making small incisions at the site of your
nipple and building up the tissue with careful stitching. Your areolas, (the
darker circular areas around your nipples), can be recreated with medical
tattooing for a very convincing appearance.
Recovery after surgery
Recovery after breast reconstruction may be a significant
determining factor in your decision, especially after the difficulty of
undergoing breast cancer treatment and mastectomy. Breast implant
reconstruction typically has a shorter recovery time compared to
autologous/flap reconstruction, but your pain, discomfort, and down-time can
vary. Your surgeon can help you with recovery expectations.
Breast reconstruction is usually covered by health
insurance. Factors such as your area, surgeon, and any related anesthesia or
facility fees may affect costs. You can speak with your health insurance
provider and surgeon to learn what is covered and what your best options are.