For those women who cannot adapt comfortably to their appearance without a breast, reconstruction – surgical building and implanting of an artificial breast – may be the answer. Reconstructive surgery is an elective procedure available to women who have had, or may be planning to have a mastectomy. Whether reconstructive surgery takes place immediately following the mastectomy or later on, is a matter of personal choice. Factors that may influence the decision include:
- The state and extend of the cancer
- The recommendation of the general surgeon in consultation with the plastic surgeon
- The personal needs of patients.
Reconstructive surgery of the breast has become an important part of treatment and rehabilitation, according to the American Cancer Society. Immediate reconstruction may reduce the psychological trauma some women experience following mastectomy. Other women may choose a delay of three to six months, or even longer, to give themselves time to cope with their cancer. NOTE: Some doctors have expressed concern that a breast implant, either following mastectomy or for breast enlargement, may make breast self-examination more difficult. If you are considering having an implant, discuss this possibility with your doctor.
Reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy), so the patient wakes up with a breast mound already in place, having been spared the experience of seeing herself with no breast at all.
Patients should understand that post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is not a simple procedure. There are often many options to consider as you and your doctor explore what’s best for you.
This page will give you a basic understanding of the procedure -- when it's appropriate, how it's done, and what results you can expect. It can't answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please be sure to ask your surgeon if there is anything you don't understand about the procedure.