The following is an excerpt from our new ebook, The Basics of Breast Reconstruction.
Most breast reconstructions involve the placement of implants. Breast implants come in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes. They are typically filled with either saline (salt water) or silicone (either a gel or rubbery consistency).
Each type of implant has pros and cons, which we will discuss during your consultation. Silicone implants are chosen most often for breast reconstruction because they tend to behave and look more like natural tissue. Breast implant technology has come a long way since their introduction in the early 1960s.
Silicone implants, in particular, have been re-engineered many times since their introduction. They received a lot of unfair press and stigma in the early 1990s; however, after nearly 17 years of studies, the FDA re-released them for all use when there was no link identified between a leaking silicone breast implant and any medical disease. Still, risks exist with any implant, and we will review those with you during your consultation.
Autologous tissue, or “flaps”
Another method of rebuilding the breast is to use the body’s own tissue. The most common donor site (where the tissue will come from) is the abdomen (called a TRAM flap), or from the upper back (called a latissimus dorsi flap). These procedures are more involved, have more recovery and scarring, and do come with some added risks.
However, the advantage is that your natural tissue is used, and you may avoid the need for an implant. If you have had radiation to treat your breast cancer, you may require a flap procedure. This allows us to incorporate healthy tissue that has not been irradiated to improve healing. We can cover these options with you at your consultation.
Sometimes we will combine the two methods mentioned above using both flaps and implants. Another popular technique following breast cancer surgery is fat grafting, or fat transfer. We essentially use liposuction to remove fat from one area of the body, and then reinject it to sculpt the optimal contour. This can be very effective in certain situations. Even if you only have surgery on one breast, it is possible we may need to operate on the other breast to achieve symmetry.