After a breast cancer, the surgical treatment, together with the consequential radiotherapy, can leave visible scars and defects on the breast treated.
Breast reconstruction — surgery to rebuild a breast’s shape — is often an option after mastectomy. Reconstruction will not give you back your breast. Although the reconstructed breast will not have natural sensation, the surgery can give you a result that looks like a breast.
If you are thinking about reconstruction, you should talk with a plastic surgeon before your mastectomy. Some women begin reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy is done; others wait several months or even years.
Although breast reconstruction can rebuild your breast, the results are highly variable:
- A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast it replaces.
- Visible incision lines will always be present on the breast, whether from reconstruction or mastectomy.
- Certain surgical techniques will leave incision lines at the donor site, commonly located in less exposed areas of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttocks.
- A note about symmetry: If only one breast is affected, it alone may be reconstructed. In addition, a breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation may be recommended for the opposite breast to improve symmetry of the size and position of both breasts.
Breast reconstruction is an option available to most women challenging the physical changes following mastectomy or quadrantectomy. While breast reconstruction is considered elective surgery, undergoing breast reconstruction can have important emotional and physical advantages. It is also important to keep in mind that breast reconstruction does not interfere with the treatment of breast cancer or surveillance for recurrence. It can, in any case, help to enhance your self confidence after mastectomy.
The decision to have breast reconstruction is strictly personal, to be faced by you and your family. It is important to know that not all patients are candidates for all types of reconstruction. The type of reconstruction you will receive should be decided by you and your plastic surgeon, depending on your situation, anatomy and needs.
Several women are wondering what a reconstructed breast looks and feels like. Unfortunately, despite many techniques of breast and nipple reconstruction, none of them will be able to give you back the exact same breast you had before the surgical treatment. It is important to realize that after a mastectomy, the only tissue remaining on the chest wall is muscle and a thin layer of skin. Your plastic surgeon will be creating an entirely new breast with different techniques. The breast often feels and looks different from the original breast and procedures to restore simmetry may be needed.
In addition, most women find the skin of the chest wall has less sensaitivity after a mastectomy. Nerves that were removed during the surgical procedure cannot be restored and the loss of feeling is unfortunately permanent. Despite these limitations, most women who undergo breast reconstruction gain huge benefits from the procedure. These include feelings of wholeness and femininity, as well as practical benefits such as eliminating the need for wearing an external breast prosthesis.