Breast Reconstruction

Premier Plastic Surgery doctors perform breast reconstruction services for women who have lost all or part of their breast or breasts to disease or illness. Breast reconstruction can be helpful to women who are on the road to physical and emotional healing following the loss of a breast.

What is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure, which can be utilized to help recreate a breast after a loss. There are numerous methods that surgeons can use to recreate breasts, including reconstruction with implants and existing breast tissue, using additional tissue from the patient’s body for reconstruction, and combining donor tissue with an implant.

Losing a breast or breasts is a traumatic event which can leave women emotionally, as well as physically, scarred. A breast reconstruction or augmentation is intended to help women regain self-confidence and to put a negative health experience behind them.

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 provides protection for women who have undergone mastectomies following cancer. This Act requires that all insurance plans provide coverage for certain restorative services, which often includes reconstruction. It is also important to note that there are other alternatives to surgical reconstruction, including a form-fitting bra, or a non-surgical prosthetic.

Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Right for You?

If you have lost your breast or breasts due to disease or illness, breast reconstruction could be for you. When considering breast reconstruction surgery, it is important to think hard about your decision. Talk with your doctors and with friends or loved ones. The decision to have breast reconstruction surgery is a highly personal decision and one that is ultimately your decision alone to make.

It is important to recognize that while breast reconstruction can restore shape to the breast, it does not restore sensation to the breast or to the nipple. Over time, some women will redevelop a certain amount of sensitivity in a reconstructed breast, but there are no guarantees.

Prior to the Surgery

Prior to reconstructive surgery, a patient should speak with their doctor and surgeon about any questions they may have about the procedure. It is important that both the patient and the doctor understand what the other expects from the procedure.

Patients should ask the doctor about the type of reconstruction the doctor will be performing, and how it could affect future health care and screening issues. Following a double mastectomy, future mammograms may not be necessary, however, a physician may advise individuals to receive checks regardless. If the patient has kept one breast or had a lumpectomy, or if they have a strong family history of breast cancer, it is still advisable that they continue to have yearly cancer screenings.

Understanding of the possibility of scarring which may occur, as well as what should be expected from the reconstructed breast over time, are also important areas to explore with the doctor.

How is the Surgery Performed?

After consulting with your physicians, and depending on the chosen method, a surgeon will generally follow these steps for breast reconstruction.

First, an anesthesia is administered, either intravenously or generalized. If the patient has already had a mastectomy or extensive radiation treatment, a surgeon may need to take skin from other portions of the body, often times from the buttocks. This type of donor tissue needs time to expand, which means that this type of reconstruction may take a few months to complete and require multiple surgeries.

If implants are being used in breast reconstruction, the doctor will likely make a recommendation to the patient on the type to be used. Saline and silicone are two most common options used in reconstruction surgeries.

Often times, surgeons are able to perform a breast reconstruction immediately following a procedure for mastectomy. This process is called immediate reconstruction, and it can minimize recovery time for both surgeries, allowing patients to get back on their feet faster, and with little visible changes. However, due to the demands of cancer treatment on the body, for many women who have undergone mastectomies, immediate reconstruction may not be a possibility. If additional chemotherapy is required, breast reconstruction will have to wait until radiation treatment is concluded.

Sometimes doctors prefer to take grafts, or donor tissue, from other parts of the patient’s body to use in breast reconstruction. This method is called delayed reconstruction, and it may occur six to 12 months following a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Delayed reconstruction is typically employed when a patient does not want to immediately consider reconstruction, has additional health problems, or needs radiation therapy.

After any reconstructed breast is put in place, a surgeon may engage in additional specialized surgery to reconstruct a nipple and areola. If the entire breast was lost, additional skin grafts can be used to recreate these areas. This type of reconstruction can be optional, but is intended to make the reconstructed breast more closely resemble the original.

After the Surgery

Patients will require some recovery time following a breast reconstruction surgery. A doctor will likely advise that patients wear compression garments around the chest to reduce movement, and suggest that they refrain from strenuous activity for at least a week if not longer.

Following surgery, it is important that patients take note of any persistent pain or discomfort, and report them to their doctor. If a doctor has used silicone gel implants, it is also important that regular MRI screenings check for any ruptures or tears.

As with any surgery, considering surgery can be a daunting task. The doctors at Premier Plastic Surgery can advise you, as you consider your options for breast reconstruction.

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