Breast reconstruction is performed to restore breast shape and size following a mastectomy procedure. Depending on the extent of the mastectomy, one or both breasts can be reconstructed. Many women seek this restorative procedure to regain a more natural-looking silhouette.
The ideal candidate for breast reconstruction can relate to the following:
Techniques for breast reconstruction vary depending on the impact of the mastectomy procedure on the breast. When breast cancer treatment surgery does not leave enough tissue to support a breast implant, a flap technique or tissue expansion can be used.
Breast reconstruction can also be achieved through tissue expansion. This is a more lengthy procedure but requires less recovery time than flap techniques. An internal expander is inserted into the area where the new breast will be, and the patient must make repeat visits for four to six months as the expander is slowly filled to stretch the skin and make room for the implant.
The nipple and areola can be reconstructed using grafting or a variety of other specialized techniques. Some women opt to have their areola tattooed on as an alternative.
Bandages or gauze will be applied to the incisions. You will most likely be instructed to wear a sports bra or compression garment to support your new shape and to minimize swelling. A drainage tube may be inserted to remove any excess fluid accumulation. After several weeks, the swelling will decrease and your new breast will have a more natural-looking shape. Dr. Thompson will let you know how long to wait before resuming regular activities, but typically you should avoid bending over, lifting heaving objects, and rigorous exercise for at least two weeks.
The results of breast reconstruction surgery vary among patients. Although the breast may not have the same sensation and feel as a natural breast, it will appear as close to your natural breast as possible. Scars may be apparent from the mastectomy or from reconstruction but will continue to fade over time. Many women experience a better quality of life following reconstruction surgery, as it can help lessen the physical and emotional impact of the mastectomy.
As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with breast reconstruction. Dr. Thompson will explain these risks in detail, but possible complications include:
During your initial consultation, you and Dr. Thompson will discuss your health history and your expectations for surgery. The doctor may assess the results of your mastectomy to better determine which techniques he should use. Together, you and Dr. Thompson will decide if breast reconstruction is right for you. If you are a post-mastectomy patient considering breast reconstruction, contact the Thompson Center for Plastic Surgery today by calling 732-410-4789.
Because breast reconstruction is such a specialized treatment, it is usually performed alone; however, liposuction may be performed if the reconstruction is going to use any transferred fat to enhance the shape of the breasts further. Consult with Dr. Thomson to determine which procedures will help you reach your aesthetic goals.
Breast reconstruction can be performed immediately after your mastectomy or in a delayed fashion (even months or years down the line). Many women prefer immediate reconstruction so that they do not have to see themselves without their breast; however, immediate reconstruction is not always possible. You will not be a candidate for immediate reconstruction if you are still undergoing or planning to undergo cancer treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
Breast reconstruction is performed using implants (in a technique similar to breast augmentation) or natural tissue transfer. Both techniques can successfully rebuild the shape of the breast(s), and provide lasting, natural-looking results. There is no “right” technique, as every woman’s body and needs are different. Dr. Thompson will discuss both of your options in detail during your consultation so that you both feel comfortable with your decision. This decision may be influenced by your body frame, overall health, and breast size desires.
All surgical procedures result in some degree of scarring. Breast reconstruction scars are usually easily concealed under clothing. All scars fade over time. Patients should keep their scars out of direct sunlight to encourage scars to heal faster.
During your recovery, you should avoid activities that place tension or stress on your healing incisions. Dr. Thomson also recommends that you sleep on your back for six to eight weeks in order to ensure that your new breasts heal properly.
The surgical operation is conducted under general anesthesia, so patients should not experience pain during surgery. During the recovery period, mild to moderate pain, swelling, and discomfort may occur. These symptoms may be treated with prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Some patients can return to work (especially work that does not involve physical exertion) after two to four weeks. It is usually better to wait six to eight weeks before resuming work for patients with physically demanding jobs. Travel, especially long-distance air travel, should be avoided for six to eight weeks following your operation.