Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that restores the appearance of a breast for women who have had their breast removed due to tumors and/or cancer. A plastic surgeon rebuilds the size and shape of the breast using local tissue rearrangement or artificial implants. The nipple and areola can also be reconstructed.
The techniques for achieving excellent post-surgery appearance have greatly improved over the last few years. However, it is important to note that the goal of reconstruction is to restore symmetry of the breasts when clothed—the difference between the reconstructed breast and the unaffected breast will still be seen when unclothed. Reconstruction will also not restore normal sensation.
Of course, this is an optional surgery. If you decide on breast reconstruction, you and your doctors will evaluate the best timing to do so. Breast reconstruction can take place during the mastectomy operation (immediate reconstruction) or at a later date, after other necessary treatments are given (delayed reconstruction).
- Immediate reconstructionis performed at the same time as the mastectomy. The entire breast is removed, and a new one reconstructed immediately. With immediate reconstruction, the chest tissues are undamaged by radiation therapy or scarring. Also, immediate reconstruction means one fewer surgeries.
- Delayed reconstructionis performed at a later time. For some women, this may be recommended if radiation is to follow mastectomy, as radiation therapy after breast reconstruction can increase post-surgical complications.