If you are a woman facing a breast removal due to cancer or to prevent it as the result of high-risk, it’s important to know your options for surgery. Are you a candidate for breast rebuilding, how and when is it done, and should you do it?
This is a very personal decision and one that should be made knowing the facts, options and with the help and guidance of your medical team and family. Having peace of mind as you move forward in this journey can help during the recovery process.
Where do you start?
The first step is making a “plan of treatment” with your doctors and loved ones. You’ll want to make your wishes known whether you elect to:
- rebuild your breast
- use an external breast form or
- forgo any procedure.
Discuss any risks, side effects, and recovery with your medical team. They are there to support you every step of the way. Talk with other supportive women who are post-surgery to ask about their experience.
What are the reasons?
The American Cancer Society notes that women may decide to have their breast rebuilt to make the chest look balanced when wearing a bra or swimsuit, to make clothes fit better, to regain her breast shape so she won’t have to wear a breast form and feel better about her body.
Do you have to decide right away?
Timing may be based on several factors as outlined by the Gov. Office on Women’s Health:
- Radiation therapy: Sometimes this can cause wound healing problems or infections in rebuilt breasts, some women may delay having it done until after therapy.
- But Women’s Health also notes that due to improvements in surgical and radiation techniques, immediate rebuilding with an implant is usually an option for women who will need RT.
- Type of cancer: Women with inflammatory breast cancer usually require more extensive skin removal.
- Delay: some women may wait until after recovery and treatment.
- If you delay reshaping or elect not to have the procedure, you can use an external breast form to give the appearance of breasts.
What you need to know
The National Cancer Institute fact sheet outlines the following:
- Talk with your doctor’s office and insurance carrier to discuss costs.
- Surgery to reconstruct the breasts can be done, or started, at the time of the mastectomy.
- You can delay until after healing and therapy are completed. It can be done after several months or years after.
- The final stage may include a nipple or areola rebuilding if they were not preserved during the breast removal.
- Sometimes surgery includes a procedure on the other breast so that they match in size and shape.
How is the breast reshaped?
There are several options for reshaping the breast according to the National Institute of Health website, including:
- Tissue from elsewhere in the body
- Sometimes both implants and tissue from elsewhere are used
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ website provides an excellent overview of options using state-of-the-art procedures to help improve function and ability but may also be performed to achieve a more typical appearance of the affected structure.
Strength and courage will carry you through this journey!
The information on this site is intended to raise awareness and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis or a substitute for health care by your physician.