Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure used to recreate a breast that has been removed due to injury, accident, or disease. While not the only reason, breast reconstruction is most commonly performed in Austin, Texas, after mastectomy or lumpectomy. This procedure can help women deal with the emotional after-effects of cancer or serious injury.
After a mastectomy or lumpectomy, many women are displeased with their new body shape. Breast reconstruction can restore the shape of breasts and recreate the lost body contours.
Many women find that they feel less feminine after losing one or both breasts. Breast reconstruction can address this issue by restoring what has been taken from them. Increasing self-confidence can, in turn, provide significant benefits in day-to-day life.
For some women, not having one or both breasts can make it more difficult to find properly fitted clothing. Reconstructing the breast allows women the freedom to choose the outfits they desire.
Breast reconstruction can recreate new breasts from natural tissue, silicone implants, or a combination of the two, depending on the technique chosen. The surgeon will discuss options with the patient and select the technique to best accomplish the patient’s surgical goals.
Breast reconstruction is often performed in multiple stages, especially if an expander is used. This process may begin at the time of your mastectomy or can be performed months or years following your cancer treatment.
If you are undergoing immediate reconstruction, Dr. Pearce will communicate and work with your mastectomy surgeon.
This technique takes tissues from the surrounding areas, usually the back (latissimus) or abdomen (TRAM), to recreate the breast. The tissues may remain connected to the blood vessels and their initial blood supply, or they may be detached and then reattached. If the tissues are detached, the surgeon must suture the blood vessels microscopically to ensure the transplanted tissues survive.
After the breast mound is reconstructed, the skin is tightened and secured to ensure the new tissues remain stable.
A new nipple-areola complex may be created physically or tattooed onto the skin. This technique will require significant downtime.
Expander and implant reconstruction is performed with two surgeries and multiple appointments in between. While this technique takes longer to complete than tissue reconstruction, it results in less downtime.
At some point following a mastectomy, a tissue expander is placed inside the newly created breast pocket. This small silicone balloon-type device is gradually filled with a sterile salt water solution to stretch the skin and any remaining tissues.
This process often takes months as the skin and breast tissue gradually stretch and grow to support the expander. Once the patient’s breasts have reached their ideal size, the expander is removed and replaced with a long-term breast implant.
A new nipple-areola complex may be created physically or tattooed onto the skin.
Mastectomy does not always require the removal of the nipple-areola complex. There are nipple-sparing techniques. Ask your oncologist if you may be a candidate for a nipple-sparing procedure.
When a patient is only getting a single breast reconstructed, breast asymmetry is highly likely. Patients may choose one of the following cosmetic breast enhancements to help ensure breast symmetry.
Depending on the technique chosen, a patient may need one to two weeks or more to recover following surgery. During this time, patients will require assistance with daily tasks.
Once the initial recovery period has passed, patients should wait for an additional two to four weeks before resuming rigorous activities.
These guidelines may change depending on a patient’s medical condition and any follow-up cancer treatments they may undergo.
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed under general anesthesia, so patients should feel no discomfort during the operation.
Following the operation, discomfort is expected, and minor to moderate pain is common. Prescription medications can treat these symptoms.
As with any surgical procedure, some degree of scarring will occur during breast reconstruction. If tissue flap reconstruction is employed, patients will also have scars in the area where the surgeon harvested the donor tissues.
Dr. Pearce does his best to ensure scarring is as small as possible. When possible, he places the incision locations in places that are more easily concealable by the natural creases of the body.
All scars fade over time, and many women report that they are barely noticeable in the years following breast reconstruction surgery.
Patients should expect a waiting period between the initial operation and the development of their final breast reconstruction results. If a patient chooses tissue expanders, the process may take many months.
Following the final surgery, patients should expect to see initial results within four to six weeks as swelling subsides. However, final results may not become visible for several months.
Ideal candidates for breast reconstruction will be in good health with no other medical concerns that may complicate the procedure or the patient’s recovery. Patients who are still undergoing cancer treatments may be asked to postpone their breast reconstruction until those treatments have concluded—particularly radiation. This will reduce the risk of complications and make recovery faster and easier.
The cost of breast reconstruction will vary depending on the number of breasts being reconstructed, the techniques chosen, and the surgeon’s, operating room’s, and anesthesiologist’s fees. Your plastic surgeons will be able to give you a more personalized price following your consultation.
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) requires that most insurance companies pay for or assist in paying for breast reconstruction. Please contact your insurance provider to see what your coverage is.
When planning breast reconstruction, it helps if patients know what they want. This can vary from patient to patient, so having reference pictures or other documentation can help ensure the doctor and patient are on the same page. Patients should have an opinion on their reconstruction surgery and be able to define their ideal results.
Patients should have realistic expectations. No reconstruction can ever duplicate a missing breast’s appearance exactly, but a skilled surgeon can come close.
Dr. Pearce will discuss a patient’s overall health and examine their breasts to develop the safest treatment plan possible. He will also explain the risks associated with breast reconstruction. Some of the possible risks associated with breast reconstruction include: