There are many choices involved in the breast reconstruction process.
Today, most women who have mastectomies are good candidates for breast reconstruction. After a mastectomy, women choose to have breast reconstruction for many different reasons. Some no longer feel whole, or they don’t feel as feminine. Others don’t want to bother with the day to day hassle of wearing a breast prosthesis.
Whatever the reasoning might be, for many women breast reconstruction is an excellent way to feel better about themselves and make a fresh new start in life.
What is a Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is the removal of breast tissue due to the presence of a cancerous or precancerous growth. The amount of tissue removed during a mastectomy is not always the same; it will vary based on:
- The size and stage of your cancer
- Your body type
- Your personal preferences
Breast Reconstruction timing
Breast reconstruction can be done during the same operation as your mastectomy. The latter is called immediate reconstruction.
It can also be done weeks, months or even years after your mastectomy. The latter is called delayed reconstruction.
Based on your circumstances, you and your doctor can decide which method is best for you.
The advantage of having immediate breast reconstruction is that your breast is reconstructed during the same operation as your mastectomy.
The advantage of delayed reconstruction is that it allows you first to rebuild your strength.
Breast Reconstruction Options
There are different ways to reconstruct your breast. The method you and your doctor choose depends on several factors, including:
- Your health & lifestyle
- Your body type
- Your breast size
- Your personal choice
- The amount of remaining skin and tissue
Breast reconstruction can be done using your body tissue, by using breast implants or by using a combination of your tissue with a breast implant.
Using your tissue for Breast Reconstruction
Latissimus Dorsi Flap
During this procedure, a section of your skin and muscle is removed from your back or from under your arm and moved to the breast area, where it is used to reconstruct your breast.
Because the skin and muscle from your back area usually are relatively thin, this method is sometimes used along with a breast implant, to give your new breast a fuller look and a more natural shape.
The TRAM Flap
Another way to reconstruct your breast using your tissue is called a TRAM Flap. This procedure involves removing fat and muscle from the stomach area and placing it in the chest area to reconstruct your breast.
Sometimes the blood supply and connection to the stomach area can be preserved. When it’s not, blood vessels from the stomach tissue must be attached to the chest area using microsurgery.
Breast Reconstruction with Implants
During a mastectomy, the surgeon removes skin and breast tissue, leaving the chest tissues flat and tight. Before placement of a long-term implant, the breast tissue needs to stretch to make space for it. This process is called tissue expansion. The latter can take place in either one or two stages.
How it works
- A temporary breast tissue expander is placed in the chest.
- Over weeks, your physician gradually fills the expander with saline, which is similar to saltwater.
- During this process, your skin will gradually stretch and grow to make room for the implant as it expands.
- Your body will slowly adjust to the growth of the implant in the same manner a woman’s body adjusts to the gradual change of her abdomen when she is pregnant.