Breast reconstruction is performed to reshape or reform one or both of the breasts of a patient after the patient has a mastectomy due to breast cancer. In order to restore symmetry between the two breasts, patients can have breast reconstruction to replace any missing breast tissue, skin or a removed nipple. The amount of breast reconstruction that is performed depends on the amount of work done during the mastectomy due to the size, location and width of the tumor that was removed.
The decision to have breast reconstruction performed is an individual decision for each patient. Patients can choose to undergo breast reconstruction or they can wear external breast pads or forms. They can also make the decision to not make any changes to their appearance at all after they have a mastectomy.
Ideal candidates also include patients that do not feel “whole” after having one or both breasts removed. The reconstruction of the breasts can provide them better self-esteem and an improved self-image.
When it comes to breast reconstruction, patients have a number of options to achieve their desired results:
Depending on the procedure used to reconstruct the breast, a breast reconstruction surgery generally takes anywhere from one to six hours to perform.
Patients will experience some discomfort for a few days after breast reconstruction surgery. Patients will be encouraged to start walking after a few days. After the surgery, patients will likely have drains placed at the incision sites to get rid of excess fluids.
The time spent in the hospital varies per patient and can often depend on the type of surgery and the extent of the work that needs to be performed. The average hospital stay can be anywhere from a day or two to 5 or 6 days.
There will be some soreness, swelling and bruising for 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery. Most patients resume normal activities around 6 to 8 weeks after breast reconstruction surgery.
As mentioned above, a mastectomy is performed due to the treatment of breast cancer. Because breast reconstruction is considered to be part of a treatment for a disease, the cost of some, or all, of the breast reconstruction is normally covered by health insurance.
The best time for a patient to have breast reconstruction surgery depends on the desires of the patient. Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed at the same time as the breast is removed or it can be performed months, or years, after the mastectomy. If the patient is undergoing any type of chemotherapy treatment for the breast cancer, breast reconstruction is normally postponed until the chemotherapy treatment is completed. Patients should be aware of the fact that breast reconstruction does not lessen the chances of the cancer returning. If the cancer does return, patients will need to consult with a board-certified doctor about their treatment options.