By: J. Brad Turner, M.D.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon
It is estimated that less than 25 percent of women are aware of the reconstructive options after Breast Cancer Surgeries. Many scientific studies have reiterated the improvement in overall quality of life, as well as making the physical and emotional pain of undergoing cancer related surgeries less severe.
What is Breast Reconstruction??? In general terms this refers to the recreation of a breast after a mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast). There are many many variables that are involved in the type of breast reconstruction, the timing of the reconstruction and many patient factors that go into the final recommendations of a reconstructive surgeon. The earliest stage of a reconstruction can often be performed at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate-reconstruction).
Sometimes it is delayed until a later time due to patient factors such as active smoking or specific cancer characteristics that will require radiation of the tissues. The two main methods of reconstruction are with Tissue Expanders/Breast Implants and using Skin/Fat/Muscle from the abdomen or back to provide a Breast Mound. There are many pro’s and con’s to each. Several months later, once the breast mound is stable and satisfactory, nipple reconstruction and adjunct procedures such as Fat Transfer can be performed to enhance the overall shape and appearance of the new breast. The most important element is to understand that this is an extremely challenging time in the life of patient. The multitude of options can often become overwhelming, so the best thing to do is have an in person consultation with a reconstructive surgeon to lay out your options and answer the many questions that arise.
I would encourage you to examine the BRA Day website at http://www.breastreconusa.org. This is a valuable resource for anyone either personally experiencing or even knowing someone going through the difficulties of breast cancer.