Breast reconstruction is a reconstructive surgical procedure generally performed on women who have undergone a mastectomy. The mastectomy is the surgical procedure that is performed to remove breast tissue and is usually associated with breast cancer treatment. For many patients, breast reconstruction is a major step along the road to recovery and is an important part of putting their lives back on track.
Breast cancer will affect the lives of 1 in 8 women but has been on the decline since the year 2000. With early detection and more available information, the chances of survival are looking better and better.
Candidates for breast reconstruction should be ready for changes in appearance and sensation of the breasts, as the reconstructed breasts will not look and feel the same way. Candidates should have realistic and positive expectations of the procedure and should have no additional medical conditions that will affect healing.
Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy or delayed until a later time. There are many reasons a patient will want to delay a reconstruction, such as the need to wait for a full recovery or the feeling of being overwhelmed by another surgery. Though it may be difficult to consider, it is important to think ahead and weigh all your options for treatment. There are also a few reasons worth considering undergoing breast reconstruction at the same time. Undergoing breast reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy has been shown to provide optimal cosmetic and psychological outcomes.
A number of breast reconstruction techniques are available. One of the most common methods is the TRAM, SGAP or DIEP flap technique. This kind of procedure involves the grafting of tissue from another part of the body, such as the back or lower abdomen, in order to provide enough tissue for the reconstruction process.
Breast implants are also sometimes used in breast reconstruction. Before the insertion of breast implants, tissue expanders may be necessary to prepare the implant site. In the four to six months before the implantation, the tissue expanders act as a placeholder and are gradually expanded to stretch the skin.
There are some other techniques that are available, such as autologous tissue transfer, where fat is moved from one part of the body and injected into the breast. This procedure requires that the patient have sufficient excess fat from a donor site.
Nipple and areola reconstruction is also an important part of breast reconstruction. Procedures performed at the same time as the mastectomy are shown to have a greater chance of successfully sparing the nipples and areola.
Typically, free-flap reconstruction techniques like the TRAM or DIEP flap techniques are more technically challenging, and have a longer recovery period, but the results are said to feel and appear more natural. Implant-based reconstruction also poses the inevitability of the need to replace implants, as well as the possibility of rupture or leakage.
Each procedure is tailored to the needs and concerns of each patient, so if you have additional questions or would like more information, please feel free to consult with Dr. Berhane. Contact us today for a consultation.