The effects of breast cancer can be utterly devastating. Not only do you have to go through the processes of investigation and often invasive treatment, but you may also have to think about possible reconstruction.

Although not all types of breast cancer require surgery, patients who have undergone a lumpectomy or full or partial mastectomy may wish to consider breast reconstruction following surgery.

Although most breast care centres have specialist doctors and nurses, they are often overstretched and rarely offer a full range of reconstructive opportunities. The Reconstructive Plastic surgeons here at the McIndoe Centre are part of the largest breast reconstruction private hospitals in Western Europe and are on hand to give impartial, practical advice for your individual needs.

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 are the benefits of breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction can restore body confidence and help cancer patients recover from treatments. If you have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy, reconstruction can help you to feel more like your old self again.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Restoring body confidence
  • Helping cancer patients recover from surgery or treatment
  • Ensuring both breasts are an even size and shape
  • Feel more feminine

What does breast reconstruction involve?

In a 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. 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.

As is the case with any form of surgery, there is always the risk of complications. Specific complications from breast reconstruction surgery include:

  • Collection of fluid underneath the wound
  • Keloid scarring
  • Bruising or a build-up of blood in the tissue
  • Infection of the wound

Recovery Time

Recovery time will vary dependent upon the type of reconstruction that you opt to have. As a general rule, you should expect 2-4 weeks recovery time, and 6 weeks before the wound is fully healed. Strenuous activity should be avoided during this time.

Treatment Cost

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 0800 917 4922 for free and professional advice or submit a contact form here for more information.

Click this link for a full guide on everything you should consider before deciding to go ahead with surgery.

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