Have you had a mastectomy and you’re now considering breast reconstruction? If yes, it’s important to get all the facts and weigh the pros and cons of the various breast reconstruction options. Take the time to find out how surgery will affect you physically and emotionally, and make sure you know what to expect during breast reconstruction.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a procedure that restores breast shape and tissue after a mastectomy. A mastectomy is done to remove the breast, usually as treatment after a breast cancer diagnosis. Women that undergo a mastectomy often experience emotional distress, and feel a diminished sense of femininity. Breast reconstruction is an uplifting experience that can improve their body image and self-esteem.
When to have breast reconstruction
Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time of the mastectomy, or at a later date. The timing of breast reconstruction should be discussed with an oncologist, but also depends on the personal preference of the patient. Women that opt to have breast reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy generally get better cosmetic results.
Breast reconstruction options
The breasts can be reconstructed with implants, or by using natural tissue from the patient’s body.
What to expect during breast reconstruction
Breast reconstruction with implants forms the breasts using implants that are filled with either silicone gel (silicone implants), or sterile saltwater (saline implants). It is a complex process that consists of two surgeries. The first procedure is done to insert a tissue expander.
Use of tissue expanders
Tissue expanders are an integral part of breast reconstruction with implants. They are used to expand the breast skin and muscle, to better accommodate the breast implant. The temporary expanders are made of silicone, and are placed below the chest muscle and gradually filled with saline solution over the following weeks.
Once the desired size has been reached, another surgical procedure is done to remove the expander, and replace it with a breast implant.
Recovery after tissue reconstruction with implants varies, depending on the extent of the procedure performed. Patients generally experience tiredness and soreness after implant surgery, and this may last for approximately 2 weeks. Most women are able to resume normal activities within 6-8 weeks of surgery.
Breast reconstruction using tissue flaps
Breast reconstruction may also be done using the autologous or flap construction technique in which skin, fat, and occasionally muscle from another part of the body, is used to rebuild the breast. The tissue used for the procedure is referred to as the flap, and is typically taken from the abdomen, thighs, back, or buttocks. The tissue and fat may be entirely removed from the original blood supply, or may remain attached to the blood vessels.
There are different flap construction techniques, including the popular deep inferior epigastric perforator (DIEP) flap. With the DIEP flap construction method, skin and fat is taken from the lower abdomen to form the breast. No muscle is used for this technique, so the abdominal muscle is left intact.
The transverse rectus abdominis (TRAM) flap is another flap reconstruction method that uses skin and fat from the abdominal region, to recreate the breast. However, TRAM also uses a portion of the rectus abdominis muscle in the lower abdomen, and this does have the potential to affect function in the abdominal region.
Comparing breast reconstruction options
Natural tissue flaps look and feel a lot more like the natural breast tissue. The results of flap reconstruction are generally permanent, but breast implants sometimes have to be replaced due to complications.
Which breast reconstruction option is right for you?
The best breast reconstruction option for you will depend on your specific situation, body type, and needs. Be sure to consult with a plastic surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction, so that you know what to expect with the various options, as this will allow you to make an informed decision.
Would you like more information on breast reconstruction?
If you are in the El Paso, TX area, contact El Paso Cosmetic Surgery for more information on the available options.
Call (915) 800-0617 today to set up a consultation with Dr. Ozan Sozer.