What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a surgery performed to restore the shape of the breasts after the tissue is removed during mastectomy (conducted to treat or prevent breast cancer).
Breast reconstruction is performed by three methods:
- Using a tissue expander/implant
- Tissue flap reconstruction
- Combination of both
This surgery may be performed weeks, months, or years after a mastectomy. It is performed by placing a device, called a tissue expander, under the skin and muscle of the chest. The expander is filled with saline during your periodic visits with your doctor. Once the chest tissue has healed, the expander may be removed and replaced with an implant.
Nipple and Areola Reconstruction
The nipple and areola can be reconstructed at a later stage. A small elevation is made keeping the other nipple as reference. The normal pigmentation of an areola can be tattooed using a dye, which is carried out as an office procedure.
Symmetry in breast shape and size
A small difference may exist in the size and shape of the two breasts following reconstruction, but may not be noticeable under a bra. However, for the more noticeable ones, women may surgically reduce, enlarge or lift the remaining breast to maintain symmetry.
One of the above procedures can be chosen based on the following criteria:
- Your preference
- Body shape and overall build
- Current breast size and preference of new breast size
- General health, including habits like smoking
- The extent of tissue removed
- Scars from prior surgeries
- Quality of skin that is remaining
- Requirement for radiotherapy
Whatever method you choose, you should confirm that your surgeon is knowledgeable and experienced in all reconstructive techniques. As your reconstructive surgeon will be a vital point of contact for onward referrals to other specialists like the plastic surgeon, this initial decision will make all the difference in your treatment and recovery process.