For women who have undergone a partial or total mastectomy, breast reconstruction can restore a sense of normalcy and provide greater self-confidence. This procedure surgically rebuilds the breast to take on the shape, size and appearance of a typical female breast. Though the breast will not have the same sensation or exact appearance as it did prior to mastectomy, it can provide greater symmetry and eliminate the need for an external prosthesis. It can also provide a woman with greater confidence when wearing a low-cut shirt, swimsuit, or bra.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
There are two primary types of breast reconstruction – implant and tissue flap procedures. Each is performed differently and provides different benefits to patients. Most women who have undergone mastectomy will qualify for either type of reconstruction. It is important to discuss differences between implant and tissue flap reconstruction with a surgeon before making a selection between the two procedures.
Implant Breast Reconstruction
During implant breast reconstruction, a surgeon places either saline or silicone breast implants below the muscle in the chest to rebuild the breast. Sometimes this process is performed in a single step, though some patients may require a temporary expander to make room for the implant later on.
Breast reconstruction using implants is a popular option for women who wish to avoid a long, complex process. Compared to tissue flap reconstruction, implant procedures require a shorter hospital stay, less time in surgery, a shorter recovery, and fewer scars. However, the breast may look less natural, and the implants may eventually need to be replaced.
Tissue Flap Reconstruction
Tissue flap reconstruction is a surgery that involves taking muscle and tissue from a donor site on the body (usually the abdomen or upper back) and transplanting it onto the chest to rebuild the breast. In many cases, the body’s natural tissues alone are enough to restore normal size and shape to the breast. However, some women opt to combine tissue flap reconstruction with the use of implants to achieve a desired result. Overall, tissue flap reconstruction is a more extensive form of breast reconstruction, but the benefits typically look more natural and can last a lifetime.
Delayed vs. Immediate Treatment
When considering options for treatment, a patient must choose whether to seek immediate or delayed treatment. Much of this decision depends upon a patient’s overall health, aesthetic goals, and whether additional cancer treatment will be necessary following the mastectomy. Patients may need to delay treatment if they have other health conditions, will require radiation treatment, or simply wish to focus on reconstructive surgery at a later date. Otherwise, many women can begin the reconstructive process the same day as surgery.
For more information about reconstructive breast surgery, contact our office. We look forward to serving you soon.