You’re faced with the diagnosis of breast cancer and you feel overwhelmed. That’s completely understandable. Your oncologist suggests a mastectomy and the surgery date is set. But before you head to the hospital, be sure to talk to a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. A consultation will calm you and reassure you about life after your mastectomy. Read on to learn more.
Choosing to Have Reconstruction Surgery
Oncology surgeons will often inform their patients that they can wait up to a year after a mastectomy to decide whether or not to have reconstruction surgery. However, the sooner you decide, the better the results will be. Depending on the patient, many times a plastic surgeon is also in the operating room during the mastectomy. Technically, reconstruction can begin immediately.
Not all women choose to have reconstruction, but for those who do, the surgery can have a profound impact. To have a breast, or both breasts, removed can be devastating physically, emotionally, and psychologically. To some women, this loss also means a loss of desirability, femininity, or of womanhood. The ability to look “normal” again is vital. Having reconstruction means they can still wear a bathing suit or their favorite clothes without worrying about needing to wear a separate, prosthetic breast.
Steps for Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed in several different ways, depending on the extent and type of mastectomy. An implant will be used to replace the removed tissue and, to prepare for it, a device will be placed under the skin first to allow for room until the incision is healed. If there is not enough tissue to cover the implant, tissue can be used from other parts of the body such as the abdominal area.
Many times, patients will opt to have an implant placed in her other breast as well, to add fullness and lift to both areas. Your plastic surgeon can explain further during your consultation and help you decide which option is best for your situation.
Breast Appearance After Reconstruction
Frankly, the first time seeing yourself in the mirror after your mastectomy may be shocking. All the original breast tissue is gone. And even with breast reconstruction, your post-surgery body won’t be exactly the same as it was before.
With some surgeries, the nipple and areola are preserved and reattached during reconstruction, especially if it is done during the initial mastectomy. Even so, they will not have the same sensitivity or nerve connections as before. Sometimes, the nipple and areola is constructed with other tissue later.
Depending on the size of your original breast, your post-reconstruction breasts may be smaller, firmer, or sit higher on your chest. Many women are quite pleased with their new look!
Breast reconstruction surgery is an extremely personal and sensitive subject for many women. Be sure to bring a friend or spouse with you when consulting with your surgeon. It is also important to have a list of questions in hand. Before making any final decisions, it is imperative that you understand all procedures and have realistic expectations.
For more information regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction, please contact New York City area plastic surgeon Dr. Scott E. Newman and schedule a free initial consultation.