During breast reconstruction, a plastic surgeon rebuilds all or part of a breast that has been surgically removed to treat cancer. Breast reconstruction is performed either with breast implants, a patient’s own tissue or a combination of the two. The surgeon and patient discuss the goal of reconstruction so the surgeon can best produce the desired results.
When is Breast Reconstruction Performed?
Breast reconstruction can be performed either at the time of mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or later (delayed reconstruction). Most reconstructions can be performed immediately.
Sometime we have to delay reconstructive surgery, if you:
- Have an advanced stage of cancer
- Need more breast cancer treatments
- Have other medical conditions
- Personal preferences
Who is a Candidate for Breast Reconstruction?
Women eligible for breast reconstruction have had or plan to have breast removal (mastectomy) either to treat or prevent cancer.
Breast Reconstruction with Implants
Breast reconstruction using implants provides acceptable aesthetic results without taking tissue from other parts of your body. Implants are filled with either saline or silicone. Either type of implant is safe.
We can improve the appearance of breast implants after mastectomy with:
- Fat grafting
- Collagen layering
You may prefer implant reconstruction if you want:
- A shorter surgery than other reconstruction types
- To avoid scars on other parts of your body
Implant reconstruction can have disadvantages. The surgery:
- Can result in breasts that are not the same size
- Requires two procedures, to remove an expander and place of the permanent implant
Using a Patient’s Own Tissue
Breast reconstruction using a patient’s own tissue provides the most natural result. We replace breast tissue with skin and soft tissue from another part of your body (referred to as a flap). We often use abdomen tissue. We can also use tissue from your buttock or inner thigh.
Disadvantages of this type of breast reconstruction include:
- A scar where we removed tissue
- Longer hospital stay and recovery
Reconstruction Using the Latissimus Flap and an Implant
A flap harvested from the back, called a latissimus dorsi flap, provides soft tissue covering to a tissue expander or immediate breast implant. The skin and soft tissue provided by the reconstruction can produce a very natural breast contour and can support a pleasing nipple reconstruction.
This method of reconstruction is most commonly used in slender women to help camouflage an implant-based reconstruction or for patients who have had radiation and don't have other areas on the body for flap-only reconstruction.
After your breast reconstruction has healed, you may want nipple reconstruction. We can design a nipple to project out like your original nipple, using skin from your reconstructed breast. It will not, however, respond to touch.
You can choose to have your breast tattooed to add onto or instead of nipple reconstruction. A tattoo can recreate the skin around the nipple, the areola. This 3-D tattoo gives a finishing touch to breast reconstruction. You can have it done:
- As an alternative or in addition to nipple reconstruction
- Before or after nipple reconstruction
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.