A woman who plans to have a mastectomy has a choice about whether or not to have surgery to rebuild the shape of the breast (breast reconstruction). Instead of breast reconstruction, a woman could choose to wear a breast form (a device that replaces the breast), wear padding inside her bra, or do nothing. All of these options have pros and cons. What is right for one woman may not be right for another.
Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or it may be done later on. If radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan, some doctors suggest waiting until after radiation therapy is complete.
If you're thinking about breast reconstruction, talk to a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if you plan to have your reconstruction later on.
A surgeon can reconstruct the breast in many ways. Some women choose to have breast implants, which are filled with saline or silicone gel. You can read about breast implants on the Food and Drug Administration's website at http://www.fda.gov.
Another method of breast reconstruction is to create a breast shape using tissue taken from another part of your body. The plastic surgeon can take skin, muscle, and fat from your lower abdomen, back, or buttocks.
The type of reconstruction that is best for you depends on your age, body type, and the type of cancer surgery that you had. A plastic surgeon can help you decide.
Questions you may want to ask your doctor about breast reconstruction
- Which type of surgery would give me the best results? How will I look afterward?
- When can my reconstruction begin?
- How many surgeries will I need?
- What are the risks at the time of surgery? Later?
- Will I have scars? Where? What will they look like?
- If tissue from another part of my body is used, will there be any permanent changes where the tissue was removed?
- What activities should I avoid after surgery? When can I return to my normal activities?
- Will I need follow-up care?
- How much will reconstruction cost? Will my health insurance pay for it?