Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure commonly performed after a mastectomy to offer patients psychological and aesthetic benefits when recovering from breast cancer. This procedure allows many women to return fully to the life they enjoyed before being diagnosed with breast cancer, with barely any signs of the disease remaining. Although the treatment of cancer is the main focus for both patient and doctor, restoring your appearance after breast cancer can often help ensure a complete recovery of body and mind. For many women, breasts are an important symbol of femininity that helps define their self-confidence and body image.
The emotional effects of an altered appearance can be as psychologically damaging as the initial cancer diagnosis. Breast reconstruction serves to restore a woman's body to its original condition after the treatment of breast cancer. Most of the aesthetic changes caused by breast cancer treatments such as a partial or simple mastectomy can be significantly helped by breast reconstruction.
Modern surgical technology makes it possible to construct a natural-looking breast after mastectomy for cancer or other diseases. The procedure is commonly started and sometimes completed immediately at the time of mastectomy, so that the patient awakens with a new breast mound instead of no breast at all. Alternatively, reconstruction may be performed in a delayed manner, even years after mastectomy. All insurance companies in New Jersey are mandated by law to cover reconstruction following breast cancer surgery.
There are several ways to reconstruct the breast. Some use implants; other use the patient's own tissues. Your breast surgeon and plastic surgeon should work together with you in deciding which approach is best for you.
Breast reconstruction has been proven to neither increase nor decrease the possibility of cancer recurrence or other diseases.
In addition to the complications possible from any surgical procedure (bleeding, fluid collection, excessive scar tissue, or difficulties with anesthesia), there are some risks inherent in breast reconstruction, including infection around the implant, if an implant is used, and capsular contracture, when the scar (capsule) around the implant tightens, causing the breast to feel hard. Treatment for capsular contracture varies from "scoring" the scar tissue to removing or replacing the implant. Some patients may need time to come to terms emotionally with their new breasts.
Breast Reconstruction FAQs
Breast Reduction (Reduction Mammaplasty)
Large breasts can cause pain, improper posture, rashes, breathing problems, skeletal deformities, and low self-esteem. Breast reduction surgery is usually done to provide relief from these symptoms. Performed under general anesthesia, the two- to four-hour procedure removes fat and glandular tissue and tightens skin to produce smaller, lighter breasts that are in a healthier proportion to the rest of the body.
Breast reduction surgery is not recommended for women who intend to breast-feed, since many of the milk ducts leading to the nipples are removed.
During the breast reduction procedure an anchor-shaped incision is made from the new location of the nipple down to and around the crease beneath the breast. The surgeon removes excess glandular tissue, fat, and skin, relocates the nipple and areola, and reshapes the breast using skin from around the areola before closing the incisions with stitches. Liposuction may be needed to remove excess fat from the armpit area, and in cases when only fat needs to be removed from the breasts, liposuction alone is used for breast reduction.
For a few days after surgery the breasts are bound with an elastic bandage or a surgical bra and you may be given surgical drainage tubes for fluid removal. Stitches come out in a week and the surgical bra must be worn for about a month.
Scars fade with time but will not disappear, although they can be hidden with a bra, bathing suit or low-cut top.
Risks are rare and usually minor but may include bleeding, infection, reaction to the anesthesia, small sores around the nipples, slightly mismatched breasts or unevenly positioned nipples, and permanent loss of feeling in the nipple or breast.