A procedure like lumpectomy or mastectomy can leave you with a distorted looking breast. Many women who opt for these procedures in order to prevent threats like breast cancer feel shy to go out afterwards owing to the embarrassment and social stigma caused by a missing breast.
And though there are several ways to hide a missing breast (for instance, padded bras), they would never be able to even come close to replacing a breast which happens to be one of the primary assets of a woman’s body. But there is no need to worry about that anymore.
Women who undergo mastectomies or other surgeries that require the removal of one or both the breasts can heave a sigh a relief. For instead of opting for padded bras or specialty clothing to hide their assets, they can opt for a breast reconstruction surgery that would leave them with newer and even better looking breasts.
A breast reconstruction surgery is usually performed to reconstruct a missing breast or match a distorted breast with its healthier neighbor. The procedure would usually involve a series of operations and would either be done immediately after a mastectomy (called ‘immediate reconstruction’) or after a few months/years (called ‘delayed reconstruction’).
In addition to reconstruction of the whole breast, breast reconstruction surgeries can also address minor issues of the breasts like nipple reconstruction wherein a new nipple is reconstructed in place of the old one that was removed during the mastectomy.
Pros and Cons of Breast Reconstructive Surgery
Breast Reconstructive Surgery has its shares of pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the advantages first.
Breast reconstruction surgery would save you from the discomfort caused by wearing prosthetic breast forms. Your appearance would remain unchanged and you will be able to sport a cleavage just like you used to before. Your self confidence and femininity would remain undeterred. And the best part of it all is that breast reconstructive surgery would not pose significant threats like breast cancer. A reconstructed breast would not obstruct future mammograms from inspecting the area from where the cancer was removed.
Over to the disadvantages! A breast reconstruction surgery would require you to go back under the knife multiple times until you get a perfectly aligned breast. This means you would have to spend more time in the hospital and take extra time off from your personal and professional commitments in order to recover properly.
Chances are you may not be pleased with the end result or would need to undergo surgery on the natural breast in order to match it to the reconstructed breast. A reconstructed breast would also mean that you have minimal sensation in it. In some cases, complete loss of sensation in the breast is also experienced.
Different Types of Breast Reconstructive Procedures
Breast reconstruction surgeries would usually fall into any one of the following three categories.
Breast Implant Reconstruction
In this procedure, an artificial implant is placed under the muscles and skin present on the chest to give the shape of a breast.
Instead of an artificial implant, the breast would be reconstructed with muscles and fatty tissues taken from another part of the body. This procedure is generally more complex than the one that involves a breast implant.
Combination of Tissue & Breast Implant Reconstruction
In cases where the breast cannot be reconstructed using fatty muscles and tissues alone, the doctor would opt to place a breast implant along with them under the skin in order to shape the breast.
Choosing the Best Option
Choosing the best procedure out of all the three options mentioned above would require careful consideration on your part. It would also depend on a few factors like the extent of breast reconstruction (how much tissue needs to be placed in the breast), the health of the breast tissue (and the area of the body from where tissue needs to be removed), existing shape and size of the natural breast, radiation concerns (whether you have undergone radiation therapy in the area) and existing medical anomalies that could slow down recovery.
Factors to Address when Opting for Breast Reconstructive Surgery
Breast Reconstruction Surgery may be considered as the next best thing to real breasts. But opting for a surgery would require you to address quite a few factors on health and other necessary constraints before you give your approval for the procedure.
The Need for a Reconstructed Breast
Some women feel perfectly fine after a breast mastectomy while others feel the need to opt for a breast reconstruction surgery in order to feel confident about their looks. In certain cases, a woman may want to reconstruct her breast if she doesn’t fancy wearing breast forms or false breasts after a mastectomy.
Some women tend to drop out of the idea of undergoing a breast reconstruction surgery if they feel fine about the way their breasts look after a mastectomy. Some would also tend to opt out of a breast reconstruction surgery on account of not wanting to undergo further surgeries and treatments.
So be sure that you really want to opt for a breast reconstruction surgery before giving your nod for the procedure. Think about how you would feel with a partially or completely distorted breast and how it would affect your confidence. If you think you can live with it, take a rain check and wait for the mastectomy to end and for your breasts to heal before you decide whether you need to reconstruct them.
The Timing of the Surgery
A breast reconstruction surgery can be done either immediately after a breast mastectomy procedure or after a few months. In the first case, you would get a new breast as soon as the mastectomy surgery is finished.
On the other hand, you can opt for a breast reconstruction surgery a few months/years after the mastectomy. This would give plenty of time for the ensuing cancer treatment to end and your breasts to heal perfectly before going under the knife again for reconstruction.
The timing of a breast reconstruction would also depend on other factors like health constraints, existing medical anomalies like diabetes and hypertension, and prior professional and personal commitments etc.
Setting Realistic Goals
An important factor to consider before opting for a breast reconstruction surgery is the possible outcome of the procedure. Even though the procedure would guarantee a breast that would closely match your natural breast in terms of appearance (size, shape and position) and feel, it would not provide you with a perfect breast.
A reconstructed breast would remain void of any sensations and would not move as naturally as your other breast as well. So set realistic expectations before opting for a breast reconstruction surgery and don’t expect to get perfect results. Giving room for a few discrepancies can save you disappointment later on.
The Number of Surgeries Involved
A breast reconstruction procedure would usually involve more than one surgery in order to get you perfectly aligned breasts. For instance, a nipple reconstruction surgery would usually be performed after a breast reconstruction surgery in order to allow the breasts to settle down in place first. The surgeries would usually be spread over a period of 6 months to 1 year.
Possible Reconstruction of the Natural Breast
In some cases, the doctor may decide to reconstruct your natural breast in order to resize, reshape or lift it to match the reconstructed breast. This would normally happen when the operation doesn’t go as planned and the end results are not good.
Issues Arising out of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
As with any surgery, breast reconstruction can cause a series of mild-severe side effects. While most of them would disappear after a while, some would need to be reported to the doctor immediately to curb possible complications.
Accordingly, some of the more common side effects arising out of a breast reconstruction surgery would include discomfort, pain, extreme fatigue, disorientation, itchiness (in and around the surgical site), swelling and bruising(would last for a few weeks), flaky skin, increased redness around the surgical site, fluid discharge from the wound, fever, bleeding, fever and chronic pain etc.
Photo Credit: http://www.methodisthealth.org/static/methodist/sites/adam/Seniors%20Center/3/100156.shtml