For breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomy treatments, a breast reconstruction can be a life-altering procedure that can restore confidence and contentment with their recovering body.
What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a term for a collection of procedures that help restore the structure and composition of the breasts, most commonly following removal due to cancerous activity. It can also occur after breast-deforming trauma or developmental reasons. Whatever the cause, a breast reconstruction uses either implants or autologous techniques (using one’s own tissue from another part of the body) to form a new breast profile. This can be accomplished on both or one breast, with other cosmetic breast procedures performed on the other in order to create symmetry.
Who is a candidate for Breast Reconstruction?
Any woman seeking to restore the profile of her breasts following removal, trauma, or development can consider a breast reconstruction. Candidates should be in good health and able to undergo and successfully heal from an invasive surgery.
What happens during a Breast Reconstruction?
This procedure is highly customized and depends on the patient being treated. In the case of a mastectomy, certain kinds will leave certain parts of the breast intact, while others will not. Your surgeon will help you best figure out what treatment options will be best.
During a Flap or autologous technique, the patient’s own tissue is used to augment the breast site, commonly from the lower abdomen. It may also include muscle if it has been removed from the chest wall during the mastectomy. Other donor sites include the buttocks or thighs if not enough tissue is present in the abdomen. Muscle and fat from the latissimus dorsi (the muscles that wrap around the side of the chest from the back) are also sometimes used. These flaps can provide extra skin and tissue, within which an implant can be placed if needed.
Tissue expansion can also be used over time through the use of a placeholder saline implant which is placed surgically, then gradually filled to allow the tissue to expand and accommodate the growing implant.
If the nipple and areola have been removed during the mastectomy, a nipple can be reconstructed by folding skin to mimic the shape, then colored by tattooing.
Results and Recovery
Depending on the severity of the reconstruction, you may require continued revision procedures that utilize fat transfer to better reconstruct the appearance of a natural breast. During the healing process, a compression garment might be administered to be worn in order to help support the new structures and aid in blood flow and healing. Any pain can be managed by prescribed medications and you may be given specific instructions for care by your surgeon.
The goal of a breast reconstruction is to help recreate a sense of physical and emotional confidence, and a healthy, feminine profile. Permanent scarring can be expected, and the reconstructed breast will not feel the same as the prior breast, but most women feel this is unimportant next to the feeling of having a well-shaped, projecting breast profile again.
If you want to speak with someone about the payoffs of a breast reconstruction procedure, contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Richardson.