Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure designed to recreate breasts after a mastectomy. Procedures for breast reconstruction come in a wide variety. While some are completed (or started) concurrently with a mastectomy or lumpectomy (immediate reconstruction), others are done later (delayed reconstruction).
The patient may have surgery to recreate both breasts or the doctor can swap out one breast for another and reshape it to match. Several surgeries that spread out across several phases may be recommended.
Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
There are primarily two forms of breast reconstruction surgery: flap reconstruction and implant reconstruction.
In this procedure, the surgeon creates a breast using autologous tissue taken from the patient’s body. The tissue is normally removed from the lower abdomen (belly). However, it can also be sourced from the patient’s thigh, back or buttocks.
During implant reconstruction, saline or silicone implants are used by surgeons to replicate breast tissue. Sometimes the surgeon may opt for a combination of implants and tissue from the patient’s body.
It is possible to combine implant reconstruction with a mastectomy or the patient may decide to undergo this procedure after a mastectomy.
Possible Complications of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Some of the possible complications that may be associated with breast reconstruction include:
How to Determine the Ideal Breast Reconstruction Type
Your doctor will help determine the suitable breast reconstruction surgery based on the following factors:
What Happens Before Breast Reconstruction?
Often, a breast reconstruction procedure is done after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. If the patient had breast cancer, she may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation before reconstruction surgery.
The surgeon will first need to conduct a thorough examination whereby he/she will measure and take photographs of the patient’s breast. The patient might be asked to stop taking some medications prior to the procedure.
The breast reconstruction procedure is carried out in the hospital under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the breast surgeon will reconstruct the patient’s breast. If the patient is receiving an implant, it is positioned in her chest. If the patient is having a flap, the new breast is formed and placed using tissue from another area of her body.
The surgeon may place a drain, normally a thin tube under the patient’s skin during the surgery. One end of the tube will stick out from the chest mainly to drain fluid and blood as she recovers.
What to Expect After Breast Reconstruction Surgery
After the procedure, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for up to a week so as to be monitored closely to ensure she is healing as expected. The breast surgeon will give postoperative instructions to the patient when she is ready to go home. Over-the-counter pain medication and antibiotics will also be prescribed to the patient to alleviate any discomfort, and reduce the risk of infection.
Benefits of Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that rebuilds the breast mound following a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Breast reconstruction can be done immediately following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, or at a later time. The timing will depend on factors such as the woman's health, the stage of cancer, and the type of surgery.
There are two main types of breast reconstruction: implant-based reconstruction and autologous reconstruction (using the woman's own tissue). Hybrid techniques that use both implants and autologous tissue are also available.
The recovery time for breast reconstruction depends on the type of surgery and individual factors. Most women can return to normal activities within several weeks, but it may take several months for complete healing and recovery.