What is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a procedure to return the breasts to their normal form. It is most often performed after mastectomy but in some cases is performed for congenital problems.
Why would a person consider breast reconstruction?
For many women, their breasts are a central part of their body image. That’s why breast augmentation is such a popular procedure. The idea of not having one or both breasts isn’t something most women want to contemplate, much less live with every day. Reconstruction is not easy, but neither was beating breast cancer. By having one of our four expert plastic surgeons perform breast augmentation, patients feel whole again. This provides a welcome boost in self-confidence following the trauma of the breast cancer process.
Who is an ideal candidate for breast reconstruction?
The decision whether to have reconstruction surgery needs to be made long before your mastectomy. That way your Elite Plastic Surgery surgeon can work together with your surgical oncologist to achieve the best outcome for you. Some women don’t like the prospect of having another surgery, and instead opt to wear external breast forms. But for others, this surgery is the first step down the road to full recovery.
These are reasons you may want to consider breast reconstruction with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons at Elite:
- If you feel reconstruction will make you feel whole again
- If you feel reconstruction will give you back some confidence
- If you feel reconstruction will make you feel more feminine again
- If you worry about symmetry if only one of your breasts is affected
- If you don’t want to be limited in wearing certain necklines or swimwear that you enjoy
When is the right time for breast reconstruction surgery?
As mentioned above, discussions about your desire to have reconstruction need to commence as soon as it looks likely you will need to have a mastectomy. Most mastectomy patients choose to have reconstruction done immediately after the breast is removed. This is both an emotional and practical decision. Most patients aren’t interested in seeing themselves without one or both breasts, so they opt to immediately start reconstruction. From a practical standpoint, the patient will already need to recover from the mastectomy surgery, so why not have the reconstruction surgery at the same time? That way you have just a single recovery, instead of a second later recovery if you opted to postpone reconstruction. But other patients need more time to deal with their mastectomy and they want to wait for reconstruction, or possibly not go ahead with it.
What are the types of reconstruction?
There are several types of reconstruction that can be performed depending on patient characteristics and goals.
- Implant reconstruction – A tissue expander is placed and gradually filled with saline to stretch the tissue and create a space for a permanent implant. This is at least a two-stage procedure.
- Your own tissue reconstruction – Tissue is transferred from your back or abdomen to reconstruct the breast.
- Combine – The combined procedure is performed with both a tissue expander and your own tissue.
How is a breast reconstruction performed?
This procedure may employ a saline-filled tissue expander to stretch the skin so it can accept a saline or silicone implant beneath the chest muscle. The breast mound is then restored and nipple and areolas are usually constructed at a later date. Flap reconstruction is used if the patient prefers her breasts to be reconstructed with natural tissues. Options include the use of a transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap (TRAM flap) or a latissimus dorsi muscle flap originating from the back for reconstruction.
How long does the breast reconstruction process take?
The timeline of this process varies depending on the reconstruction method used. For instance, skin expansion can take up to several months for the balloon expander to create the skin pocket that will hold the implant. Flap reconstruction can be done in a single surgery but will require follow-up procedures. During your consultation and planning, we can provide you with a more accurate timeframe, depending on your preferences.
What will my recovery entail?
Your recovery period and difficulty can vary widely due to the variety of methods that can be employed. Hospital stays can run from one to six nights. Patients are generally tired and sore for up to two weeks, with full recovery taking up to six weeks.
When you return home, you will have bandages and elastic supports to allow the newly reconstructed breast to heal properly and without undue stress. There will likely be a drainage tube. A pain pump is effective to reduce the need for narcotic pain relievers. It will likely take up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction.
We’ll give you detailed instructions on what you can and cannot do to impact your incisions and such. As a rule, you’ll need to refrain from any overhead lifting, strenuous exercise, and any sexual activity for up to six weeks following your surgery.
If you’ve had a single breast removed and reconstructed, it may seem obvious, but your reconstructed breast will not look the same as your original breast. Our Elite plastic surgeons will do everything possible to match the size, shape, symmetry, and other attributes of your remaining breast. To make both breasts similar, we may need to operate on the remaining breast, changing its size or providing a breast lift.
As you would expect, your reconstructed breast will have little or no sensation.
Will breast reconstruction change the way my breasts feel?
Reconstructed breasts have little or no sensation. This is because they are not created with the same nerve fibers and other attributes of your original breast tissue. If we are only reconstructing one of your breasts, the other breast may also need surgical attention (typically a breast lift) to make it as similar as possible to your reconstructed breast. This will not impact feeling in that remaining breast.
What will my scarring be like after breast reconstruction?
There will be scarring with either type of reconstruction. With flap procedures there will be scarring at the donor site and on the reconstructed breast. Our board-certified, experienced surgeons work hard to limit the scarring with the placement of the incisions and such. These scars will begin as angry red in color, but they will fade substantially over time. At Elite, we take great pride in the quality of our breast reconstruction surgeries, and we think they will help you feel as if you’ve turned a corner in your cancer recovery and can get back to a more normal life once again.
Correction of Congenital Breast Deformities
Whether the result of congenital issues, uneven growth or injury, breast deformities can be successfully corrected. No two procedures are exactly alike. Usually, a combination of implant and lift surgeries produce excellent results. Patients should discuss their goals and expectations with their surgeon to determine the best course of action.
Schedule your breast reconstruction at Elite Plastic Surgery!
If you are interested in learning more about breast reconstruction in Michigan, or if you wish to determine whether you are a candidate for the procedure, please be sure to reach out to one of our top plastic surgeons today. Call our Grand Rapids office at (866) 331-0612 or fill out the email contact form on this page, and our team will help you set up your appointment. We look forward to serving you!