Losing one or both breasts to breast cancer may be traumatic. For some women, losing breasts may involve feelings of a loss of self or a loss of feminine identity. For others, it may simply mean feeling less rather than whole. Whatever the feelings associated with mastectomy after breast cancer, breast reconstruction may be a good option for rebuilding the breasts and also for rebuilding a sense of self and wholeness after breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction basics
Breast reconstruction is performed after a breast, or a significant portion of a breast, is removed. The procedure is meant to rebuild the breast to the same size and shape that it was before breast cancer, although some women may opt to make changes to the size or shape of the breasts. At one time, the nipple and areola were typically lost in the process of breast reconstruction after mastectomy; however, modern surgical techniques are now able to not only rebuild the breasts, but often are able to either preserve the nipple and areola or recreate them. The two most common types of breast reconstruction are implants or tissue flap procedures, but some patients benefit from a combination of the two.