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Breast Reconstruction
Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction Every year, thousands of women are diagnosed with breast cancer a disease women fear more than any other. It is the most common cancer among women and one of the leading causes of female cancer deaths. The cancer can be halted, however this may result in the removal of one or both breasts, a procedure known as mastectomy. Unfortunately, some women feel that losing their breasts means losing their femininity, so losing a breast can be a very traumatic experience. However, breast reconstruction offers a solution to those who want to regain the appearance of a full bosom. Advancements in the procedure have allowed doctors to reconstruct the breast right after mastectomy, so women can wake up without ever having to see a missing breast. Breast reconstruction is not considered cosmetic surgery, rather, reconstructive surgery.

Breast reconstruction has become one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 96,277 breast reconstructions were performed in the United States in 2011.

With the increasing popularity of various elective surgery procedures, including breast reconstruction, it is important that the prospective patient research and understand different issues like what the procedure can and cannot treat, inherent risks, costs, and other factors. While the information contained in this website will provide you with a good introduction to breast reconstruction, when considering this or any other surgical procedure, we recommend that you consult a qualified provider with significant experience. Some important elements you should understand regarding this procedure include the following:

Benefits of Breast Reconstruction

Here are some of the more common benefits of having a breast reconstructed.
  • Enhanced appearance.
  • Restored symmetry to the two breasts.
  • Regained a sense of femininity.
  • A boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.


Who would best Represent an Ideal Candidate for Breast Reconstruction?

Any woman who faces losing her breasts from breast cancer would be considered a qualified candidate for the procedure. Some women that have a history of breast cancer in their families sometimes choose to have the breasts removed (prophylactic mastectomy) even before the disease shows symptom, in order to avoid cancer completely.

It is also important for women to be healthy when undergoing breast reconstruction. Conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure may result in postponing the reconstructive surgery.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is not known what actually causes this disease, however age, health history and other factors can affect the risk of developing breast cancer.

It is important for women to check regularly for breast cancer, once a month is recommended. A mastectomy can be avoided if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early.

Please consult with your physician for more information.

Where do I begin?

Discussing breast reconstruction can begin as soon as one is diagnosed with cancer. Those considering breast reconstruction should not only consult their surgeon, but also find a qualified surgeon to perform the reconstruction. has created an easy and effective way for patients to find a surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. For more information please

How is Breast Reconstruction Performed?

Breast reconstruction is usually performed in a hospital, under general anesthesia. This is a major operation that may require more than one procedure.

During the procedure, the affected breast is removed through mastectomy. There are various options to post-mastectomy reconstruction. The following are the two most common forms:

Skin expansion – this is the most common technique. It involves skin expansion, combined with insertion of an implant.

After the breast is removed, a balloon expander is inserted beneath the skin and chest muscle. Saline is injected periodically to gradually fill the expander. Once the breast tissue has been stretched enough, the expander is removed and a more permanent implant can be placed. The nipple and areola are reconstructed in later procedures.

Flap reconstruction – this involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body, like the back, abdomen, or buttocks. This procedure also has its own variations.

In one type of flap reconstruction, the tissue remains attached to its original site, which retains its blood supply. The flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle, are tunneled beneath the skin to the chest. This creates a pocket for the implant or, in some cases, it creates the breast mound itself, in which case, no implant is needed.

Another technique involves using tissue that is surgically removed from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks, which is then transplanted to the chest by reconnecting the blood vessels, through microsurgical technique, to new ones in that region.

Please consult with your surgeon on which technique works best for you.

Breast Implants used for Reconstruction

Breast implants are silicone shells that are filled with either saline (salt water) or silicone-gel. For more information on breast implants, you can find more in the Breast Augmentation pages found in,
Breast Augmentation Surgery.

How Much Pain is Associated with Breast Reconstruction?

There is always a considerable amount of pain after surgery, especially in a procedure as extensive as breast reconstruction and mastectomy. You are likely to feel tired and sore for a week or two following surgery. Prescribed medication can control most of the discomfort.

What is the road to recovery like?

It may take up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction. Most scars should fade over time, but they may take one to two years and never fully disappear.

Your surgeon will advise you on when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities. Generally women return to normal activities about three to six weeks following reconstruction.

What are The Long-Term Effects of Breast Reconstruction?

Chances are your reconstructed breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your natural breast. It may not have the same contour as your own breast, nor will it exactly match your opposite breast.

What Are the Risks and Limitations of Breast Reconstruction?

All surgeries carry risks, including bleeding, fluid collection, excessive scar tissue, or difficulties with anesthesia.

For those who undergo breast reconstruction, the most common complication is capsular contracture, where the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten. This can cause the breast to feel hard.

Are there other alternatives?

Immediately after mastectomy, some may choose to wear a breast prosthesis instead of undergoing reconstruction. Some women even choose to live the rest of their lives without breasts. The decision to undergo a breast reconstruction is entirely up to the patient.

What Are The Typical Costs Associated With Breast Reconstruction?

Costs for breast reconstruction can vary. Fees can vary depending upon whether this procedure will be performed in conjunction with mastectomy, or on its own, or if one breast, or both will be reconstructed. Fees within various regions may vary depending on whether the doctor’s practice is in an urban, suburban or rural area. This fee only covers the physician’s costs, and does not include other miscellaneous costs. A comprehensive cost figure may be obtained while consulting with the physician. Make sure this figure includes any and all associated costs.

Note: Breast reconstruction can be covered by medical insurance for post-mastectomy, if the mastectomy is covered, which can vary from state to state. Be sure to check with your doctor and medical insurance provider for more information.

Ten Questions Patients Undergoing Breast Reconstruction Should Ask Their Surgeon

To better educate the patient about breast reconstruction, as well as assisting in formulating realistic expectations, it is recommended that the patient look at before and after photographs, speak with previous patients, (you are always welcome to ask your doctor for referrals to previous patients and where to contact them) and get answers to the following questions:
  1. Will my breast look and feel natural?
  2. Where is the breast reconstruction performed and how long will it take?
  3. In my case, what technique and which are most appropriate?
  4. What kind of anesthesia will the surgeon use during the surgery?
  5. How much does breast reconstruction cost and what other elements factor into that cost (i.e., hospital fee, anesthesia, etc)?
  6. What is the surgeon’s level of experience in performing breast reconstruction?
  7. What percentage of patients experience complications with the breast reconstruction?
  8. What is the surgeon’s policy in regards to correcting or repeating the procedure if the breast reconstruction does not meet agreed upon goals?
  9. What should I expect, post-operatively, in terms of soreness, scaring, activity level and so on?
  10. Have you ever had your malpractice insurance coverage denied, revoked or suspended?
Don’t limit yourself to these questions. If there is something you do not understand about breast reconstruction, do not hesitate in asking the doctor any questions you might have.

In addition, it is important that breast reconstruction patients relay to their surgeon information regarding any allergies and serious medical conditions they may have. Furthermore, patients should inform the surgeon of any medications they are taking.

This site provides information about plastic/cosmetic surgery and is designed to help users make decisions regarding their own treatment options. But medical information is not the same as medical advice--the application of medical treatment to a person's specific circumstances. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a qualified medical practitioner if you want professional assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.

Related Links:

All is not Vanity: New Cancer-Fighting Breast Implants May Give 'Enhancement' a New Name
Halting the "Drive-Through Mastectomy"
Before Breast Cancer Strikes


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