The number of women having breast reconstruction after mastectomies for cancer has increased greatly over the past decade. Plastic surgeons use a variety of reconstruction techniques, depending on the woman’s needs, her diagnosis and her treatment.
Breast reconstruction by a skilled and experienced plastic surgeon can frequently restore a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size following mastectomy. Research has shown that breast reconstruction improves patients’ self-confidence, psychological and sexual well-being.
Dr. Lisa M. DiFrancesco answers your questions about breast reconstruction.
When should a woman diagnosed with breast cancer talk to a plastic surgeon about reconstruction – before or after her cancer surgery?
Women should seek consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon prior to surgery to discuss your reconstructive options. Your plastic surgeon, breast surgeon and oncologist will all work together to optimize your treatment and reconstruction for the best results.
Does reconstruction at the time of mastectomy generally produce better cosmetic results than reconstruction done later?
Immediate breast reconstruction is performed at the same time as breast cancer surgery and will often produce a better cosmetic result. However, even if a woman had a mastectomy some time ago, delayed breast reconstruction can still be done.
What are some of the techniques you use to reconstruct breasts?
The 2 main types of reconstruction are flap or autologous tissue (techniques that use a woman’s own muscle, fat and skin) and implants. Breast reconstruction includes reconstructing the nipple and areola, if necessary. Many mastectomies performed today allow the nipple and areola to be spared with a favorable cancer diagnosis.
Is breast reconstruction surgery ever used when only a lump and not an entire breast has been removed?
Yes, it is used for both lumpectomy and mastectomy. In addition, insurance will typically pay for procedures to the opposite breast to make it a symmetrical “match” to the reconstructed breast.