Breast reconstructive surgery - and whether to have it done - is a very personal decision. Some women may consult with a plastic or reconstructive surgeon prior to a mastectomy or double mastectomy, while others may choose to wait, or be advised to wait, by their oncologist. Either way, the goal of the surgery is to restore symmetry and a sense of normalcy for the patient.
Reconstructive surgery options usually fall into one of two categories. The first, tissue expansion, involves a series of surgeries that stretch the skin and muscle of the chest to allow a breast implant to be placed. This occurs over a period of several months.
The second type of reconstruction is commonly referred to as a "flap" procedure in which donor muscle, skin and fat from the patient's abdomen or back are used to reconstruct the breast. Flaps can be utilized for many purposes, ranging from creating an entire breast to the creation of a base for implant placement.
Although each patient is unique, there are a few basic considerations for any woman contemplating breast reconstructive surgery:
- What are your expectations for the end result? In other words, what do you hope to accomplish through this procedure? Do you want symmetry so that your clothes look better on you? Or do you want to look as good as possible without your clothes on? Every woman will have a slightly different goal, so understanding your personal expectations is crucial.
- What are your expectations for the process? Typical breast reconstruction procedures involve more than one surgery to achieve the desired results. Again, each patient will be different so each procedure may differ slightly in its details. Getting as close as possible to your goal is critical, so make sure you express your expectations with your plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
- Are you in good health? It's vital to go over a complete medical history, including your medical conditions, cancer treatments and any drug allergies that may affect the course of treatment.
- Are you concerned about further scarring? While we strive for the best aesthetic results possible with all of our procedures, it's important to remember that there will be some degree of scarring from reconstructive surgeries. Discuss your concerns with your surgeon so that you clearly understand what you will look like after the procedure.
- Are you worried about the surgery/recovery/healing time? Reconstructive surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. Like any surgical procedure, breast reconstruction does pose some degree of risk. Your surgeon should review the risks to help you weigh the pros and cons. Each patient is different, so recovery times will vary from patient to patient.
Clear, honest communication between doctor and patient is critical to a positive outcome in any reconstructive surgery. Be sure to discuss with your surgeon all of your concerns so that she or he can help you make the best - and healthiest - choices possible.
To learn more about breast reconstructive surgery, visit cosmetic.mountnittany.org or call 814.231.7878.