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Breast Reconstruction Options After a Mastectomy and What to Expect

breast reconstruction options

One in eight women will develop breast cancer. Many factors increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, including lifestyle decisions, hormones, and environmental factors.

If you discovered you have breast cancer, you’re probably weighing out all of your options. Your doctor may recommend a mastectomy. A mastectomy is the removal of the breast and surrounding tissue to remove cancer.

If you don’t like the idea of removing your breast, there are many surgical options to help you gain back your confidence and femininity.

Here are the different breast reconstruction options, if surgery is right for you, and what to expect.

Is Breast Reconstruction Right for You?

After a mastectomy, choosing breast reconstruction is a personal choice. It’s normal to lose your confidence, your womanhood, or simply just miss your breasts. You should never feel ashamed to want your breasts back.

At the same time, you should make this decision for you. No one else should try and influence or force you into undergoing an operation you’re uncomfortable with.

However, breast reconstruction isn’t necessary for your health or for your cancer treatment. It’s all about your self-image and body preference.

But there are benefits of undergoing breast reconstructive surgery. Posture issues are the main disadvantage of breast removal. Breast reconstructive surgery will help even out your breast weight, taking less strain off of your back.

Like any other surgical operation, there are important considerations you should make. These include:

When should you have your surgery? How long after your mastectomy and other cancer treatments?

  • Which type of surgery should you choose?
  • Should you operate on both breasts?

There are other personal factors you should consider. These include:

  • Overall health
  • Body type
  • Whether the patient smokes or drinks
  • Cancer severity
  • If the patient is still undergoing more treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy
  • The patient’s insurance

It’s best to do your own research and always discuss your options with your surgeon.

Breast Reconstruction Options

Patients have two main options: implants and skin flap surgery.

Breast Implants

Breast implants are either silicone or saline implants inserted underneath the breast. Implants help increase the size of breasts while enhancing their shape, making them look fuller and perkier.

In the case of a mastectomy, implants will be placed where your previous breast tissue was.

Breast implant reconstructive surgery has its flaws. First, the patient may not have enough breast tissue to support the implants.

The surgeon will usually place a tissue expander underneath the breast skin. The expander acts as a temporary implant but it also helps stretch out the remaining tissue.

From here, the surgeon will inject saline water into the expander on a weekly basis. This helps the expander grow to the size the patient desires.

Once the expander comfortably stretches out the tissue, the surgeon will insert the permanent implant in its place.

If the patient has enough tissue, they won’t need to insert an expander. In certain cases, the surgeon may perform the reconstructive surgery immediately after the mastectomy.

Skin Flap Surgery

Skin flap surgery uses tissue from another body part to build the breast instead of implants. Most doctors remove the tissue from the abdomen but other common places include the back, buttocks, and thighs.

The surgeon will use one of two methods:

  • Pedicle flap surgery
  • Free flap surgery

In free flap surgery, the surgeon removes the tissue but also the blood vessels. The surgeon stitches the blood vessels into the existing blood vessels in the chest. This helps provide the new breast tissue with circulation.

Pedicle flap surgery doesn’t include the blood vessels. The surgeon will simply move the tissue from the existing site to the breast while it’s still attached. The surgeon has to get the tissue from the abdomen or back for this procedure.

The main flaw with skin flap surgery is not all patients qualify for this operation. The patient needs to have plenty of excess tissue in order to successfully build their new breast. Breast implants are the most versatile option.

Alternatives

Not every patient opts for breast reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. That’s because there are also a variety of alternatives available.

Prosthetic breasts are popular. These are inserts that replicate the natural shape and size of your breast. You either wear a prosthetic breast inside your bra or attached to your body.

If you’re able to keep your existing breast tissue but your breast decreases in size, many patients opt for a breast reduction to make both breasts even in size. A breast reduction also helps enhance the shape of the breasts.

What to Expect During the Recovery Process

Both surgical options are serious. The patient can expect to spend several days in the hospital after the operation. A patient may also need more than one surgery. You’ll also need drainage tubes and stitches.

Recovery time depends on the operation. Most patients who opt for skin flap surgery endure longer recovery times than patients who have implants.

Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty performing normal activities for the first couple of months after the surgery.

You can also expect to endure certain side effects such as:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue

You may also experience pain, bruising, and swelling in other areas of the surgery, especially if you have skin flap surgery.

Because of this, your doctor will likely prescribe pain medication. You may also be instructed to wear special bras during recovery.

Schedule Your Breast Reconstruction

Enduring breast cancer is scary. Many patients have to get a mastectomy where their breast is removed to prevent the spread of cancer. Fortunately, there are many breast reconstruction options to get back your breasts after your surgery.

The two most common options include implants and skin flap surgery. But many patients opt for breast implants because they’re quick and many patients qualify for implants.

The next question is — where should you get your breast implants done? You’ll want to choose the best surgeon for this job.

If you’re based in Wilmington, NC, you can look no further. Contact us today and schedule a consultation.

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