Breast reconstruction is a great option for women who have overcome breast cancer to renew their self-confidence after losing one or both breasts. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there has been a steady annual growth in breast reconstruction surgery over the years with a 39 percent increase in the number of procedures since 2000. Despite this increase, less than half of women who require mastectomy are currently offered breast reconstruction surgery, and only 23 percent understand the wide range of breast reconstruction options available to them. In order to address this, the plastic surgeons at Monarch Plastic Surgery want to help breast cancer survivors be fully aware of their options for breast reconstruction, so they can look and feel as beautiful as possible.
Immediate vs Delayed
For women who undergo a typical mastectomy, all breast tissue is removed including the nipples, areolas and possibly even a lymph node or two. A breast oncologist will perform the mastectomy and a plastic surgeon is often present during operation to begin the reconstruction process. However, depending on the circumstances, some women choose to delay the reconstruction until they are completely healed from the mastectomy. If chemotherapy or radiation is required following the mastectomy, it is recommended to delay the reconstruction process as the implants may cause complications.
Preparing for Implants
The first step in the reconstruction process is placing a temporary breast implant called a tissue expander under the skin. This can take place immediately after the mastectomy, during the same operation, or later down the road if the process was delayed for any reason. The tissue expander has a small port, and once it is placed under the skin, our surgeons can insert a needle into the port and expand the device using saline or salt water. With the expander, our surgeons can gradually stretch the skin until the patient is satisfied with the size, resulting in a greater amount of control in the final result. Once the breast is expanded to the desired size, the next step is to remove the expanders and place the implants, of which we have a variety of options to choose from.
The Final ResultThe last step in the reconstruction process is to rebuild the nipple and areola. At Monarch, we typically involve a tattoo artist who creates 3-dimensional tattoos that are remarkably realistic. To see before and after pictures of previous breast reconstruction surgeries and what the tattoos look like, click here. Our surgeons will follow up with you on a monthly basis and eventually once per year to make sure everything heals properly. After the third year, we recommend an ultrasound to check for any irregularities. Breast implants are designed to last for many years, but if you ever decide you would like to change the shape or size, our surgeons are more than happy to speak with you regarding your options. When faced with such a difficult matter, we always strive to provide hope and encouragement, so don’t hesitate to ask questions or bring up any concerns during your consultation.