Breast Reconstruction

Being diagnosed with breast cancer forces you to make a number of difficult choices, including those about breast reconstruction. Although your doctors will guide you along the way by explaining the options, you must make the final decisions directing you down the path best suited to your situation.

Is it right for me? Your first choice is whether to proceed with any reconstruction. For a number of reasons, most women in the United States who undergo mastectomy do not choose reconstruction. The breast is removed and the remaining skin is simply closed. For many women, this remains the safest, most reasonable choice. It is a way to move on with one's life quickly.

A personal question of body image. The question of whether to proceed with reconstruction is very personal and can only be answered by each patient individually. To begin making your decision, consider the proposed or existing changes to your breast due to a mastectomy. Typical changes are the loss of skin surface, breast volume, the nipple, symmetry and contour.

A good option for some. The problem is obvious: a mastectomy is quite deforming and often disturbing to patients. For these patients, mastectomy without reconstruction is not a viable option. They are uncomfortable with the appearance of their body after the mastectomy and want a surgical means of regaining a more natural breast appearance. Breast reconstruction can be physically and emotionally rewarding if
  • You are able to cope well with your diagnosis and treatment
  • You do not have additional medical conditions or other illnesses that may impair healing
  • You have a positive outlook and understand the limits of restoring your breast and body image

Breast reconstruction typically involves several procedures performed in multiple stages. It is achieved through several plastic surgery techniques that attempt to restore a breast to near normal shape, appearance and size following mastectomy.

The creation of a new breast can dramatically improve your self-image, self-confidence and quality of life. Although surgery can give you a relatively natural-looking breast, a reconstructed breast will never look or feel exactly the same as the breast that was removed.

Results vary: Although breast reconstruction can rebuild your breast, the results are highly variable:
  • A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast it replaces.
  • Visible incision lines will always be present on the breast, whether from reconstruction or mastectomy.
  • Certain surgical techniques will leave incision lines at the donor site, commonly located in less exposed areas of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttock.

If only one breast is affected, it alone may be reconstructed. In addition, a breast lift, reduction or augmentation may be recommended for the other breast to improve symmetry.

Breast Reconstruction - mouse over to see images