With advances in breast reconstruction surgery, about one-third of women undergoing breast removal have one or both of their breasts rebuilt. Breast reconstruction involves creating a breast mound that comes as close as possible to the form and appearance of the woman’s natural breast.
The goal of reconstruction surgery is to create a breast mound that matches the opposite breast and to achieve symmetry. If both breasts have been removed during cancer surgery, the goal of breast reconstructive surgery is to create both breast mounds approximately the size of the patient’s natural breasts.
Prior to undergoing breast cancer surgery, the patient will talk to her doctor about whether to undergo reconstruction surgery and when it is most appropriate.
- Immediate reconstruction – Reconstruction surgery performed at the same time as the mastectomy.
- Delayed reconstruction – Reconstruction surgery performed after recovery from the mastectomy is complete. If chemotherapy is part of the treatment protocol, the surgeon may recommend delayed reconstruction.
In general, all women undergoing a mastectomy are candidates for immediate or delayed breast reconstruction, but certain factors may prevent reconstruction, including:
- The size and location of the cancer
- Whether breast tissue has been damaged by radiation therapy or age and is not healthy enough to withstand surgery
- Past medical history
- Co-existing illnesses
Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
The two most effective approaches available for both monolateral (one breast) and bilateral (both breasts) reconstruction surgery includes:
- Expander/implant reconstruction – The use of an expander to create a breast mound followed by placement of a permanently filled breast implant
- Autologous tissue reconstruction – The use of the patient’s own tissue to reconstruct a new breast mound