Reconstruction After Breast Cancer Surgery
After a mastectomy, or other surgeries used to treat breast cancer, some women may decide to have their breast(s) reconstructed. Deciding on breast reconstruction is a personal choice that is right for some but not for others. There is no right or wrong answer.
We encourage you to take the time you need to consider whether this option might be right for you. Your breast cancer care team can walk you through your options for breast reconstruction surgery and explain how making the decision before your mastectomy can play a role in your overall cancer treatment plan.
What is Breast Cancer Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction restores one, or both, breasts to near normal shape, appearance, symmetry, and size following breast cancer surgery. It often involves multiple procedures performed in stages and can either begin at the time of mastectomy or be delayed until a later date, such as after radiation therapy (if it’s part of your treatment plan).
When it comes to how breast reconstruction can be done, you have different options. One option is for your breast(s) to be rebuilt using implants (saline or silicone). Another is for them to be rebuilt using autologous tissue (that is, tissue from elsewhere in the body). Sometimes, both implants and autologous tissue are used to rebuild the breast.
You can read more about breast implants on the Food and Drug Administration Website.
Although breast reconstruction rebuilds the shape of the breast, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t restore sensation to the breast or the nipple. Eventually, the skin over the reconstructed breast may become more sensitive to touch, but it won’t be exactly the same as it was before your breast cancer surgery.
If you are thinking about breast reconstruction, it’s important that you talk with a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if you plan to have your reconstruction later on. Your breast cancer surgical team can offer suggestions for plastic surgeons. The type of reconstruction that is best for you will depend on various factors including your age, body type, and the type of cancer surgery that you will have. The plastic surgeon can explain the risks and benefits of each type of reconstruction.
Breast Reconstruction Alternatives
Keep in mind that breast reconstruction isn’t your only option. In fact, there are many women who decide not to have their breast(s) rebuilt for a variety of reasons. For some, the thought of a second surgery isn’t appealing. For others, they are simply comfortable with their new look. Sometimes, the cost is an issue, especially for women who don’t have insurance coverage.
If you decide against breast reconstruction after surgery you have two main options:
- Using a breast form or prosthesis (inside the bra or attached to the body to wear under their clothes)
- Going flat (not wearing a breast form)
Both alternatives have their pros and cons, which your Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers’ oncologist is happy to discuss with you.
Is Breast Reconstruction Right For You?
Only you can answer that. With that said, never assume that your initial gut response (to have reconstruction or opt for an alternative) is going to be your final choice. Making a decision about breast reconstruction is a very personal decision and a process that takes time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your RMCC cancer care team. We are here to answer any questions you may have and can point you toward resources that offer valuable information to help you choose.