Breast Reconstruction Is An Option After Cancer Surgery

Breast reconstruction is an important cosmetic surgery for women who've had their breasts removed due to cancer. With improvements in cosmetic surgery techniques, the breasts and nipples can usually be restored to nearly their same appearance as before they were removed. Unlike many other cosmetic breast surgeries, reconstruction is usually covered by your insurance. Be sure to check with your individual insurance agent to be certain though. 

Reasons For Reconstruction

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, over 240,000 women in America are diagnosed with various forms and stages of breast cancer every year. Of those cases, some women will have to have the entire breast removed while some may only undergo a lumpectomy. There are also women who test positive for a high risk of developing breast cancer and choose to have their breasts removed as a preventative step. Having breast reconstruction is an important and positive step for many of these women.

Choose A Qualified Surgeon

Choosing a plastic surgeon who is board certified and with whom you feel comfortable is the first big step you need to make. Once you do that, your surgeon can help you determine if you are a good candidate and which type of reconstructive surgery is right for you. Some of the determining factors include at what point you are in your cancer treatment, your health and the amount of skin tissue left after your mastectomy.

Preferred Type Of Implants

Saline

With implants, most women prefer silicone because it most resembles and feels like natural breast tissue. The implant is inserted between your chest muscles and beneath any existing breast tissue. If there was enough skin left from your mastectomy, the implant can be done sooner than if you have to use a temporary implant to stretch your skin and muscle. 

Tissue Flap Reconstruction Procedures

TRAM Procedure

There is also a tissue flap procedure where surgeons use tissue harvested from your thighs, buttocks, stomach or back. A TRAM or transverse rectus abdominis muscle flap procedure is done with tissue from your stomach. One option is to use existing attached blood vessels and re-routing them from their original locating to your chest. Another method is to do a free-flap where tissue, skin and blood vessels are moved from one part of your body to your chest and reattached.

Latissimus Dorsi Flap Procedure

The latissimus dorsi flap procedure is where surgeons take back tissue, muscle and blood vessels plus an implant and reconstruct your breasts. 

Gluteal Free Flap Procedure

There is also a gluteal free flap which is a transplant of tissue from the buttocks.

DIEP Flap Procedure

The DIEP or deep inferior epigastric artery perforator flap uses skin and fat from your stomach but no muscle. It's kind of a breast reconstruction and mini tummy tuck in one.

Who Is A Candidate For Flap Procedures?

All flap procedures are options only for women who have good veins and blood flow, non-smokers and no arterial problems.

Additional Surgeries

Your nipple and areola will also have to be reconstructed and that is a separate surgery. It is normally outpatient though, and done some time after the breast reconstruction has healed. Tissue for this procedure can be taken from several different areas of the body.

Recovery

You will have around six to eight weeks of recovery time after your breast reconstruction surgeries. However, you should be able to go home in anywhere from one to six days, depending on your type of surgery. 

Possible Side Effects

Some of the potential side effects of breast reconstruction surgery are scarring, bleeding, possible hernia resulting from taking stomach muscle for the reconstruction process, slow healing due to cancer treatment, reduced feeling in the breasts, infection, swelling and being tired.