Timing Options

Breast reconstruction can be done at different times, depending on what works best for you.

Immediate Breast Reconstruction

As soon as the breast is removed by the breast cancer surgeon, the plastic surgeon reconstructs the breast either with tissue from another location on your body or with an implant (and sometimes both). The surgery is coordinated between your surgeon and a plastic reconstructive surgeon. Studies have shown that this is a safe approach and may result in a better cosmetic result.

Delayed Breast Reconstruction

The reconstructive surgery is performed sometime after the mastectomy, and any additional therapies that are given including chemotherapy, radiation, or targeted therapies. Radiation therapy in particular is known to cause undesirable changes to a reconstructed breast. Some stage II and all stage III breast cancers are likely to need radiation therapy after mastectomy. Therefore, some surgeons advise patients to wait until after chemotherapy and radiation are finished before having reconstruction. This means reconstruction might be done 6 to 12 months after mastectomy.


In some cases, doctors aren't sure if a woman will need chemotherapy or radiation until after the cancer and some lymph nodes are removed and analyzed. It can take up to a week for this analysis to be done. In these cases, a tissue expander is inserted under the chest muscle after the breast is removed, thus holding open the mastectomy space until definitive reconstruction can be performed once chemotherapy and/or radiation are completed. The breast reconstruction is usually completed about 4 to 6 months after radiation.

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