Before Breast Cancer Reconstruction Surgery
Before Breast Cancer Reconstruction Surgery

Because breast cancer reconstruction involves major surgery, good preparation is key to achieving pleasing results. Any woman who is considering a breast reconstruction procedure should explore all options and work closely with her surgeon prior to surgery to help ensure a satisfying outcome.

Preparing for Breast Reconstruction
Before proceeding with breast cancer reconstruction surgery, your surgeon should thoroughly discuss the options most suited to your body and tissue type, health, age, and objectives. You should frankly discuss your expectations for your procedure so your surgeon can give you a full and honest appraisal of whether your goals are attainable. Your surgeon should openly discuss the possible breast reconstruction risks and complications associated with the particular procedure you will undergo. Your surgeon should also tell you about the anesthesia that will be used in the surgery, the facility where the procedure will be performed, and the full cost of breast reconstruction surgery. If your surgery is not covered by insurance, breast reconstruction financing can usually be arranged to cover all or part of the cost.

Your cosmetic surgeon will give you specific instructions about preparing for your breast reconstruction surgery. You will receive guidelines concerning foods, beverages, and medications to avoid. Smokers will be advised to quit at least two weeks prior to surgery because smoking impedes healing.

Understanding Breast Reconstruction Methods
Breast cancer reconstruction surgery typically requires more than one operation to complete. The first breast reconstruction surgery involves the creation of the breast mound and the subsequent optional surgeries involve the construction of the nipple and areola, and if necessary, the enlargement, reduction, or lift of the natural breast to match the reconstructed breast. The first surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia in a hospital. After the initial breast reconstruction surgery, additional surgeries may also be performed in a hospital, although some breast reconstruction procedures may be performed at your surgeon’s practice.

There are two ways to create the breast mound during breast reconstruction surgery: by using a tissue expander in conjunction with breast implants or though flap breast reconstruction.

Implant Reconstruction
In post-mastectomy breast cancer reconstruction with a breast implant, the surgeon first uses a tissue expander to create a pocket for the implant. A balloon-like mechanism is surgically placed in the chest, and over a period of several weeks or months, the surgeon will gradually add saline solution to the expander to stretch the skin until an area large enough to accommodate the implant is created.

The expander is sometimes left in the pocket as the implant. Usually, however, it is replaced with either a saline breast implant or a silicone breast implant. Each type of implant has advantages and disadvantages. Saline breast implants have been used the longest in the United States because a 1992 moratorium kept silicone implants off the market until November 2006. You can read detailed information about the two types of breast implants on the DocShop website, and a DocShop cosmetic surgeon can help you decide which type will best suit your physical makeup and your goals.

Flap Reconstruction
Flap reconstruction entails the surgical relocation of living tissue from the abdomen, back, or buttock to the chest to create a breast mound. With TRAM flap breast cancer reconstruction, the surgeon takes skin, fat, a muscle tissue from the abdomen. DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery involves only the removal of skin and fat, so it is considered safer than TRAM flap surgery. Tissue is taken from the upper back in latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstruction surgery. This procedure often is used in conjunction with a breast implant. When performing a gluteal flap breast cancer reconstruction procedure, the surgeon uses tissue from a buttock to create the breast mound.

Immediate vs. Delayed Reconstruction
There has been debate over whether a woman is better served by having breast reconstruction immediately after a mastectomy or by waiting until the emotional and physical trauma of the surgery have passed. Research indicates that most women who have immediate breast reconstruction are happy with their decision and that a majority of women who delay breast cancer reconstruction regret postponing the surgery. However, each person's situation is unique, and some experts contend that delayed breast reconstruction allows a woman to heal better emotionally. If you are facing a mastectomy, discuss your options with your surgeon. If possible, talk with women who have had a mastectomy and who have undergone breast reconstruction surgery to get firsthand opinions and advice. The ultimate decision will be yours, but input from a variety of sources can help you make the choice that is best for you.

Speak with a Plastic Surgeon in Your Area through DocShop
To learn more about breast cancer reconstruction, locate a highly qualified cosmetic surgeon in your area using DocShop's extensive listings. Your breast reconstruction expert can help you prepare for breast reconstruction, answer your questions about implant and flap reconstruction methods, and advise you on whether immediate or delayed reconstruction is appropriate for you.

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