04 Apr Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction could be right for you if you’ve had a mastectomy. Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or it may be done later on. If radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan, your doctor may suggest waiting until after radiation therapy. A Nashville, TN plastic surgeon can reconstruct the breast in many ways. Some women choose to have breast implants, which are filled with saline or silicone gel. Another method uses tissue taken from another part of your body. The plastic surgeon can take skin, muscle, and fat from your lower abdomen, back, or buttocks. The type of reconstruction that is best for you depends on your age, body type, and the type of cancer surgery that you had. A board certified plastic surgeon in Nashville, TN can help you decide.
Timing of Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction can help restore the look and feel of the breast after a mastectomy. Performed by a plastic surgeon, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy (“immediate”) or at a later date (“delayed”).
Many women now get immediate breast reconstruction. However, the timing depends on:
- Physical exam by the plastic surgeon
- Surgical risk factors (such as smoking and overweight)
- Treatments you will need after surgery
Not all women can have immediate breast reconstruction.
Benefits of Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction may help you feel more comfortable about how you look after a mastectomy. Although a reconstructed breast may never match the look or feel of your natural breast, this area of plastic surgery continues to improve.
How to choose the type of breast reconstruction that is right for you
Breast reconstruction can be done with:
- Breast implants (filled with saline or silicone)
- Natural tissue flaps (using skin, fat and sometimes, muscle from your own body)
- A combination of these methods
There is no one best reconstruction method. There are pros and cons to each. For example, breast implants require less invasive surgery than procedures using your own body tissues, but the results may look and feel less natural. Your body shape and anatomy may affect the types of breast reconstruction likely to give you the best results. For example, women with larger breasts may need breast reduction surgery on the opposite, natural breast to create a more even look. Your lifestyle may also affect the type of reconstruction you choose. For example, some types use muscles from other parts of the body, causing weakness in the area. These may not be good options for athletic women.
Your Nashville, TN plastic surgeon will help you choose the type of reconstruction that will give you the best results and fit with your lifestyle. Take the time to study your options and make a thoughtful, informed choice. Although this decision may seem overwhelming, it may help to know that most women who have had breast reconstruction do not regret the method they chose. There are fairly few complications with any of the current techniques, especially when a woman is a good candidate for a selected procedure. Most breast reconstruction methods involve several steps. Both immediate and delayed reconstructions require a hospital stay for the first procedure. Follow-up procedures may be done on an outpatient basis.
The Impact of Smoking and Body Weight on Breast Reconstruction
Smokers and women who are overweight have an increased risk of complications for all types of breast reconstructive surgery. If you smoke or are overweight, talk with your Brentwood, TN board certified plastic surgeon about problems after surgery such as wound healing, infection, reconstruction failure and problems with implant or flap procedures that may occur. Sometimes, delayed breast reconstruction after quitting smoking or weight loss is preferred to lower the risks of these problems. Your plastic surgeon may discuss ways to quit smoking and/or lose weight before you have reconstruction.
Two Basic Types of Breast Reconstruction
There are two basic types of breast reconstruction: Implants and Natural Tissue Flaps. Below, we’ll discuss each type.
Inserting a breast implant is a fairly simple procedure. It may not require extra hospital time if it can be done at the same time as the mastectomy. The shape of the reconstructed breast with an implant may not look or feel quite like the natural, opposite breast, especially as you age and your natural breast changes shape. For this reason, implants are better for women with small or medium-sized breasts with little or no sagging. It is possible to have surgery to enlarge or reduce the size of the opposite, natural breast to help make both breasts look more alike. However, the natural breast will change in size and shape with weight changes and as a woman grows older, while the breast with the implant will not. This may lead to a less even look over time. More surgery may be needed to maintain a similar look.
Natural Tissue Flaps
Reconstruction that uses skin and soft tissue flaps from your own body tends to look and feel more like a natural breast than reconstruction with breast implants. However, these procedures are more complex and invasive, and usually require a longer hospital stay and post-surgery recovery time. They also leave scars in the area of the body where the tissue was taken (donor site).
The most common natural flap procedures use tissue from the back, abdomen, buttocks or thighs. In some procedures, part or all of a muscle needs to be taken to provide blood flow to the flap tissue. This may cause weakness in that area of the body and limit certain physical or athletic activities. If you are active, discuss this risk with your board certified plastic surgeon in Nashville, TN.
Breast reconstruction in Nashville, TN, can help restore your natural shape and appearance following a mastectomy. It is important to consider all available options to decide what is right for you and what works with your treatment plan.