Breast reconstruction is a favoured procedure for many women who have undergone breast removal (mastectomy), and wish to maintain their womanly figure.
What is it?
• A breast reconstruction is an operation to restore the shape of the breast following surgical removal (mastectomy) because of breast cancer or other illness
• There are two reconstruction methods used, depending upon your preference: Implant reconstruction, using an artificial implant or tissue reconstruction, using tissue from another area of your body
What is involved?
• If you choose an implant reconstruction, your surgeon will insert a pre-formed silicone or saline solution breast implant that matches your desired dimensions under the skin where your breast used to be
• If your skin has been pulled tight following your mastectomy, it may be necessary to use a skin expander, often called a balloon expander, to stretch the skin enough to accommodate the implant
• The expander is then filled with salt water solution over a period of time to assist in expanding the tissue gradually
• Once the required size is achieved, your surgeon will reconstruct you areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple) and the procedure is complete
• If your reconstruction is carried out at the same time as your mastectomy, the entire process is likely to take around 2 to 3 hours
• You will require a general anaesthetic and you will need to stay in hospital overnight
• If your prefer not to have any foreign material in your body, your surgeon will take some tissue from either your back or stomach to recreate you new breast
• This type of procedure, known as flap reconstruction, is generally regarded as more complex and is likely to leave several prominent scars around your body
• Tissue reconstructions may require several different operations lasting up to 3 hours each, all of which will require a general anaesthetic and an overnight stay in hospital
• Your recovery will depend upon which procedure you have
• You should expect to recover fully from an implant reconstruction within six to eight weeks
• A tissue reconstruction can take longer
Things to be aware of
• You will feel sore for a few days after your operation. Other risks include bleeding, seeping and possible infection
• If you opt to have your reconstruction at the same time, or immediately following mastectomy, your risk of complications is reduced because you are having just one operation instead of two
• Whichever procedure you choose, it is important to remember that whilst every effort is made to make your breast as life-like as possible, it will not be a perfect replica of the breast that was removed
• Breast reconstruction is permanent, although you should expect some change in appearance to develop over time