For 35 percent of cancer patients, a mastectomy is the best treatment option. However, it can make you feel less feminine or self-conscious.
Though a prosthesis can temporarily provide feminine curves, a breast reconstruction can restore physical and emotional wholeness. For good.
Is breast reconstruction right for me?
Breast Reconstructions Have Been Linked to Increased Chances of Survival
Restore Lost Breast Tissue
Whether you have had some or all of your breast tissue removed, a breast reconstruction can be performed to recreate the breast mound. Many patients find comfort in restoring the balance between their breasts.
Women who undergo reconstructive surgery have shown improved body image and quality of life. These psychological benefits can minimize the impact of the breast cancer diagnosis and contribute to your survival.
For some patients, breast reconstruction can be completed during your mastectomy. You will not have to experience the trauma of seeing yourself without a breast or breasts between surgeries.
More Women Are Choosing Reconstruction
While wearing a prosthetic bra or embracing a newly flattened chest are still post-mastectomy options, more women are choosing to undergo reconstruction after mastectomy each year. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that 63 percent of women chose reconstruction in 2007, compared to only 46 percent of women in 1998.
It Sounds Like a Great Option But I Can't Afford it...
Good news. By law, your health insurance must provide coverage for your mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 deemed that coverage must include all stages of your reconstruction.
Most offices can review your insurance coverage with you and help you file the appropriate documentation to ensure that your procedure is covered partially or fully.
There Are Two Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgeries
Your doctor can reconstruct your breasts using implants or a tissue flap. This is what you can generally expect during each:
Reconstruction with implants is the more popular alternative and is completed over various stages. During stage one, a tissue expander is placed under remaining skin or chest muscles to stretch the tissues. On a weekly basis, your doctor will inject saline into the tissue expander to enlarge it until it reaches ideal size. Finally, the tissue expander is replaced with silicone or saline implants.
This is the less popular option but has historically offered the greatest long-term satisfaction and lower complication rates because it uses your own tissue. During surgery, tissue is taken from your back, thigh, or buttocks and transplanted to your breasts. This surgery requires a single procedure lasting about 8 to 10 hours.
Recovering from Surgery
The initial recovery lasts about two weeks. During this time, you will experience some soreness and tenderness. After six to eight weeks, you can return to normal activities. Your scars will begin to fade around the one-year mark.
Surgery Is Designed On an Individual Basis
To help you determine which type of surgery to have and whether you should begin during your mastectomy or wait until later, your doctor will take into account:
The size and location of your cancer
The size of your breasts
The amount of tissue you have available for autologous use
Your age, body type, lifestyle, and long-term goals
Your overall health
Your desired recovery time and willingness to undergo multiple surgeries
You Can Wait or Explore Other Options
If you are concerned about undergoing more extensive surgery than needed, you may consider fat grafting. Fat grafting is a less invasive way of adding volume to your breasts. Alternatively, many women choose not to undergo a breast reconstruction at all. You can also wear a breast prosthesis or choose to "go flat."
Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Although reconstruction is usually recommended during your mastectomy, it is always an option later in life unless you have outstanding health issues.
Your Doctor Can Help You Decide
During your consultation, your doctor will assess your health, your current condition, and discuss your overall goals to help you choose if reconstruction is right for you. To learn more about reconstruction, schedule an appointment with your doctor today.