Breast reconstruction following a mastectomy is now an integral component of the treatment process for breast cancer. For women who have had a double mastectomy, breast reconstruction can rebuild both breasts matching them as closely to the original, natural breast. The decision to have reconstructive surgery is a turning point in the cancer journey and for many signals a new beginning.
"When I was ready to look at my new breast, I was emotional and so elated. The skin-saving mastectomy meant that the only scar was around the nipple area and the result was better than I had ever anticipated."
Breast Reconstruction Patient
Why Might You Need Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is available for women who are recovering from the effects of breast cancer treatment. It can also be used following a mastectomy or lumpectomy to ensure both breasts are a similar size and shape.
Treatment for breast cancer can be quite invasive, and result in partial or full removal of the breast. Other areas of the body such as the lymph nodes in the armpit are examined to ensure all cancerous cells are removed via axillary clearance or axillary dissection. Further treatment can involve hormone therapy and radiotherapy.
What Does Breast Reconstruction Involve?
In breast reconstruction, the missing volume of breast tissue and any skin deficiency is replaced. Depending on factors including personal preferences, the type of surgery undertaken and the size and shape of the breasts, there are several different methods of reconstruction.
Oncoplastic surgery allows for the reshaping of remaining breast tissue when only a small volume of breast tissue has been removed. The indentation can be filled by injecting fat taken from the lower part of the abdomen.
Occasionally, there is enough skin laxity to allow a breast mound to be formed by inserting an implant underneath the chest wall muscle. If there is not enough skin, it may also be possible to stretch it over approximately three months by using a tissue expander placed underneath the chest wall muscle. The tissue expander would then be replaced by a breast implant in a second operation.
However, if you prefer not to use artificial implants, another method is to use tissue taken from your own body. The tissue is taken from the lower abdomen (TRAM or DIEP flap), buttock (SCAP flap) or inner thigh (TUG) can be used to reconstruct the breast.
The time that a breast reconstruction takes will vary dependent on the specific type of reconstructive surgery that you choose. Your surgeon will discuss your individual case and the different types of reconstruction available to you in your consultation.
What Are The Possible Complications Of This Surgery?
As with all surgical procedures, there can be some risks. At The McIndoe Centre, we do everything we can to minimise risk of complications. Your surgeon will talk to you about any possible specific complications before you decide to have your operation.
Recovery After Treatment
Recovery time will vary dependent upon the type of reconstruction that you opt to have. This will be discussed with you at length during your journey with us.
If you are considering breast reconstruction, please take the opportunity to discuss your wishes with one of our specialist breast reconstruction surgeons. The cost of treatment can vary, according to your chosen treatment and individual requirements.
We’d be delighted if you wanted to arrange a consultation with us. Please call the Helpline on 01342 488054 for free and professional advice or submit a contact form here for more information.
This article was written by The McIndoe Centre, in collaboration with Adam Blackburn BSc(Hons), MB BS (Hons), FRCS(Plast) Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. All information, advice and procedures were updated on 17th September 2019.