Is Breast Reconstruction the Right Option After a Mastectomy?

For many people, the breasts are an important aspect of their identity, body image, and sense of femininity. As part of the treatment for breast cancer, the breast tissue and skin may be removed from one or both of the breasts in what’s known as a mastectomy. The process of diagnosis and treatment for the disease can be emotionally and physically traumatic, but there are procedures that can help you to feel more like yourself again. Breast reconstruction is a type of plastic surgery that many patients choose in order to recreate the shape and appearance of their breasts at the same time as the removal, or at a later date—even several months or years after. Unsure about breast reconstruction? Los Angeles’ Cassileth Plastic Surgery team can help with basic information to aid in the process of making an informed decision.

There are some key points to consider before deciding on reconstructive surgery. The process can be easier if you’re aware of what’s involved, as well as of the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment.

Breast reconstruction is right for certain patients, but it’s a complex decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In some cases, breast reconstruction requires multiple procedures, but one-stage breast reconstruction, developed by Dr. Lisa Cassileth, can be highly effective for women undergoing mastectomy, since it removes the need for a second surgery.

Some patients prefer not to undergo additional surgeries after their mastectomy, don’t want scars, and dislike the more artificial sensation associated with implant-based reconstructed breasts. They might choose to embrace leaving their chest flat while feeling beautiful or empowered. They could also wear a breast prosthesis to imitate the appearance of real breasts.

On the other hand, mastectomy patients choose to have a reconstruction procedure because they don’t want to draw much attention to themselves by going flat, or they want to feel more like their normal selves with or without clothing after a breast reconstruction. It helps to enhance the proportions and silhouette while giving these patients a sense of normalcy after the transformative mastectomy surgery.

Even though breast reconstruction can be done in stages or at a future date for patients who don’t feel ready for the surgery at the time—or who change their mind about it—it’s believed that the best aesthetic outcome is achieved when patients have the breast reconstruction done simultaneously with a mastectomy.

Generally speaking, the ideal candidates for this surgery are those who are having it done for personal reasons rather than to meet another person’s expectations, who are coping well with their diagnosis and treatment, and who are healthy and free of any serious medical conditions. For some patients, breast reconstruction will be ruled out as an option for health reasons.

Patients with conditions such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes, those who are fighting a severe form of cancer, or those who regularly smoke and drink alcohol may not be suitable, as these conditions and habits can increase the risk of complications. Patients should also maintain realistic expectations: namely, breasts that are reconstructed will look and feel different from your original breasts, and you will have some permanent incision lines on the skin.

Because this is a personal decision and the procedure is highly individualized, it’s best to ask lots of important questions beforehand to be aware of what each breast construction technique involves, along with possible side effects and risks, the duration of the procedure or procedures, and what the recovery will be like. It is also good to know the basics of the three main techniques used: implant-based reconstruction, flap reconstruction, and fat transfer.

In an implant-based technique, breast implants are placed in the breast pocket to create the breast shape, while flap reconstruction involves using the patient’s own fat, skin, and tissue to reform the breast mounds. Fat transfer consists of taking excess fat from other spots on the body and transferring it to create a more realistic appearance or correct irregularities from breast reconstruction with implants. Often, fat transfer can occur during both direct-to-implant or flap reconstruction, to help smooth any differences in breast shape.

Expect taking around three to six months or longer to fully heal after breast reconstruction.

Discover more about your options for breast reconstruction in Los Angeles from the experienced physicians at Cassileth Plastic Surgery & Skin Care. To learn more about their services, call at (310) 278-8200 or fill out a contact form to request a consultation.

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Categories: Lifestyle