Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is a type of surgery for women who have had all or part of a breast removed. It is performed by a plastic reconstructive surgeon. The surgery rebuilds the breast mound and restores the patient’s breast shape and look. The nipple and the darker area around the nipple (areola) can sometimes be saved, or added on in a subsequent surgery. Women who have had only the part of the breast around the cancer removed (lumpectomy) do not need reconstruction. Most women who have had a breast removed (mastectomy) can have reconstruction.

Learn more about insurance coverage for breast reconstruction.

Timing of breast reconstruction:

The timing of breast reconstruction is one of the most discussed topics in reconstruction research. It's important that your entire team of doctors -- breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and other caregivers -- meet as a group and discuss your unique situation. Because each breast cancer is unique, each reconstruction surgery and its timing are unique. Together, you and your team can decide on an approach that is best for you.

A number of factors influence the timing of your reconstruction:

  • Your aesthetic goals – Do you want to look good in your clothes? Or do you want to “look good naked”?
  • How much time and effort are you willing and able to invest in your recovery? Implant-based reconstruction generally involves a shorter recovery time and faster return to usual activities, compared to autologous flap reconstruction.
  • Whether radiation therapy is planned or anticipated after surgery – this is based on your cancer stage.

Learn more about breast reconstruction timing options

Choosing the type of breast reconstruction that is right for you

Breast reconstruction can be done with:

There is no one best reconstruction method. There are pros and cons to each. Your body shape and anatomy may affect the types of breast reconstruction likely to give you the best results. For women with larger breasts, breast reduction surgery on the opposite, natural breast may be needed to create a more even look. Your plastic surgeon will help you choose the type of reconstruction that will give you the best results.

Most breast reconstruction methods involve several steps. The initial reconstructive surgery usually requires a hospital stay. However, follow-up procedures may be done on an outpatient basis.

Click here for a list of questions to ask your plastic surgeon.

Decisions about reconstructive surgery may depend on many personal factors such as:

  • Your overall health
  • The stage of your breast cancer
  • The size of your natural breast
  • The amount of tissue available (for example, very thin women may not have enough extra body tissue to make flap grafts)
  • Whether you want reconstructive surgery on both breasts
  • Your insurance coverage and related costs for the unaffected breast
  • The type of procedure you are thinking about having
  • The size of implant or reconstructed breast
  • Your desire to match the look of the other breast

Learn about the Risks of Breast Reconstruction.

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