Breast Reconstruction

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Breast Reconstruction Overview

Breast reconstruction is a procedure that restores breasts after mastectomy due to cancer or when a breast is deformed due to injury or birth defect. There are many different options for breast reconstruction that allow surgeons to restore one or both breasts to a relatively normal size and shape. Understanding all of your options for reconstruction is important for the success of your surgery and subsequent recovery.

Empowering yourself to make important decisions about your breast reconstruction can be a valuable part of your recovery. You will want to consult with your oncologist and general surgeon when making certain breast reconstruction decisions that will impact your cancer treatment.

Breast reconstruction surgery is usually partially or completely covered by medical insurance. Be sure to consult your insurance company’s guide to coverage to determine your eligibility or call your insurance carrier. In most cases, you will need to get written confirmation and clearance from your insurance carrier before receiving treatment.

Finding a surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you do not currently have a surgeon, the qualified patient coordinators at 1800mySurgeon are prepared to help you find Plastic Surgeons in your area, who specialize in breast reconstruction procedures, or we can provide a background check on any surgeon you choose.

Having Realistic Expectations for Breast Reconstruction

Having realistic expectations for your breast reconstruction surgery is very important for the success of your surgery. Breast reconstruction is not the same as breast augmentation. The results from breast reconstructions vary significantly depending on when breast reconstruction surgery is performed and the technique and materials used to replace lost breast tissue. Understanding that breast reconstruction may not completely satisfy your ideal desire in terms of size, shape, angle, symmetry, feel or sensation will help you focus on the positive potential of your surgery.

Surgery Is Not the Only Answer

Many women who have undergone mastectomy have opted not to have breast reconstruction surgery. There are options for prostheses that fit into bras and clothing offering a natural looking shape for your body. You can find links to clothes and prostheses manufacturers at

The choice to have reconstructive surgery is very personal and may not be right for you. If you are not sure about surgery, take the time to meet with a Breast Reconstruction Surgeon or two, who specialize in breast reconstruction, before making a final decision.

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Surgeon

Even if your oncologist has recommended a particular surgeon, you want to be sure you feel comfortable with your surgeon. Once you’ve made an appointment for a consultation, take the time to prepare a list of questions and concerns you want to address. If your partner is involved with your treatment and recovery, invite them to join the consultation.

The consultation is your opportunity to assess the surgeon as much as it is their opportunity to help you determine the proper reconstruction procedure for your desired goals. Take your time, be thorough and know that you are never required to commit to a procedure or a surgeon because you’ve had a consultation.

There are generally two categories of breast reconstruction surgery: reconstruction with a breast implant or flap reconstruction using muscle, skin and fat tissue from the patient’s body. The procedures for either of these surgeries depend on whether the reconstruction is performed at the time of mastectomy or as a second procedure at a later date. Your surgeon should explain the benefits and risks for all of your options so you can make the most informed choice possible for your reconstruction.

You want to make sure that you choose a surgeon whose work you admire, and who listens closely to your desired goals. You will be able to see the outcome of some of their surgeries by looking at before-and-after pictures.

If you are having a separate reconstruction procedure, make sure to speak to the anesthesiologist before you schedule the surgery, and inform them of any allergies or reactions you have to any medications.

This list of information may help you compile your questions and may encourage you to do some further research on the many different aspects of breast reconstruction procedures:

For Breast Implant Reconstruction:

  • If you are having reconstruction at the time of mastectomy with an implant, you will have more options as to the kind of implant. Discuss your implant style and sizing options with your surgeon.
  • The FDA is currently conducting studies on high strength silicone gel breast implants (Gummy Bears). If you are interested in that type of implant, you will want to find a surgeon who is part of the FDA protocols.
  • If you are having reconstruction as a separate surgery, you may need a tissue expander implant. Ask your surgeon to fully explain the procedure, how the implant works, and how long the process for tissue expansion will take.

For Flap Reconstruction:

  • There are generally two common flap reconstructions: the TRAM flap which uses muscle and tissue from your abdomen or the Latissimus Flap whish uses muscle and tissue from your back. Using a flap from the buttock is also possible but is less common and has significant risks and side effects. Ask your surgeon to discuss all of these options in detail.

If you’re consulting with a surgeon from 1800mySurgeon, you can rest assured that you will be meeting with a qualified Plastic Surgeon. If you already have a surgeon in mind, our qualified patient coordinators can also perform a background check before you schedule your consultation. Most importantly, always trust your instincts during the consultation. The success of your surgical experience will be based on how you feel about the surgeon, the surgery, your recovery and your result

Breast Reconstruction Surgery Recovery

Your recovery will be based on many factors including whether your breast reconstruction is performed as part of your mastectomy or if it is a completely separate surgery. The length of your recovery process will also be affected by other cancer treatments and the health of your immune system. Make sure your surgeon discusses your specific recovery needs during your consultation.

If you are having reconstruction at the time of mastectomy or if you receive a flap reconstruction, you will have to stay in the hospital from one to five days. Recovery from flap reconstruction takes longer than implant recovery because there is more than one surgical site. Recovery from TRAM flap reconstruction can take longer than other procedures as your abdomen will need to heal as well as your breast.

Full physical recovery may take up to three months. During that time you will gradually regain strength of movement as your body heals. Your scars may take up to seven months to completely heal.

Breast Reconstruction Risks

There are specific risks for each type of breast reconstruction surgery. Your surgeon should discuss each risk with you during your consultation. Any surgical procedure carries certain risks and the possibility of complications, infection, and adverse reaction to the anesthesia.

This is a partial list of risks and concerns associated with breast reconstruction procedures that you will want to address with your surgeon:

For Breast Implant Reconstruction:

  • Capsular contracture – this happens when scar tissue forms around the implant and the implant begins to tighten or harden.
  • Is there a risk of infection from the implant?
  • Rupture: when the breast implants tear and/or leak. This may require a second operation to replace the implant. You will want to know the manufacturers warranty in the event of a rupture.
  • Depending on your age, will the implant need replacement after a certain number of years?

For Flap Reconstructions:

  • What will happen if the transferred tissue loses blood supply?
  • What is the risk of hernia from TRAM flap reconstruction?
  • Will the removal site of the flap be visible or obvious?

These are just a few of the concerns or risks associated with the different breast reconstruction surgeries. Your needs and goals should be weighed against your risks and concerns. Your surgeon should offer you advice and information, but should not pressure you to choose a specific technique.

Long Term Results

Breast reconstruction surgery is a permanent procedure although time, weight fluctuation and other factors will contribute to natural sagging and aging of your breasts.

Choosing Your Surgeon

At 1800mySurgeon, we are here to help you make an informed decision. One of the most important aspects for a successful outcome of your procedure is to choose the right surgeon, therefore all of our Breast Reconstruction Surgeons are prescreened and continually monitored. We can help you find Plastic Surgeons in your area, who specialize in breast reconstruction surgery or we can provide a background check on any surgeon you choose.