Breast reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the more complex yet rewarding surgical procedures. Selecting the most appropriate technique and timing for the reconstruction involves complex decision making, dependent on the patients preference, their body shape and previous breast reconstruction surgery. The decision is ultimately made by the patient after we have discussed all of the available options.
The new breast mound is created by using either the patient’s own body tissue or an implant. When using the patients own tissue to create the breast mound, it is usually taken from the belly but it can also come from the buttocks or back. As the breast is reconstructed from natural tissue, the results have a natural feel and appearance. As this technique is more complex than when using an implant/expander, surgery and recovery time are usually longer.
Implant reconstruction can sometimes be performed in one operation with or without the use of a muscle flap from the back. Usually two operations are required. At the first operation an expander is placed under the skin and muscle at the site of the new breast. This is inflated with salt water injections over a period of weeks. At the second operation, usually 3 months later, the expander is replaced with a permanent silicone implant.
Surgery to the other breast is often required or requested by the patient. This can be augmentation, breast lift or breast reduction. Reconstruction of the nipple and areolar is usually performed some months later using part of the other nipple or the patient’s tissue from elsewhere. The reason for the delay is that the new breast at first will be higher than the other side.
Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as the breast cancer surgery if the breast surgeon and patient so wish. Some patients prefer this immediacy as they combine the breast cancer and reconstruction surgery in one hospital stay, wake up with a breast mound already in place and are spared the experience of having no breast at all. Otherwise breast reconstruction can be performed at any time after breast cancer treatment is completed.
More Information on Breast Reconstruction
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