Breast reconstruction is the process of restoring the shape of a female breast that has been deformed or removed because of a lumpectomy or mastectomy. It can be immensely rewarding for a woman who has lost an important part of her physique to have it surgically restored, but anyone considering breast reconstruction surgery should be aware of her options and the possible outcomes.
What is involved with breast reconstruction surgery?
Breast reconstruction can be performed one of three ways.
The first method involves inserting a silicone prosthesis under the muscles of the chest wall to simulate the mound of a natural breast.
The second method does not involve the use of silicone. In this procedure, the surgeon tunnels part of the woman’s abdominal skin and muscle upward and stitches it to the chest wall. This procedure creates two scars: one on the abdomen (the size of which may reach her “bikini line”) and the other on the chest wall.
A variation of this method is performed using a portion of skin and muscle from the woman’s back, which is tunneled under her armpit area, and then stitched onto the chest wall. This leaves a scar of considerable length on the back aside from that on her chest wall.
In the final method, a silicone bag is placed on the chest wall and is expanded by forcing sterilized fluid into a valve under the woman’s breast skin.
What can I expect from breast reconstruction surgery?
First and foremost, breast reconstruction is major surgery in which the patient is placed under general anesthesia. Although the surgeon will use one of the above techniques to restore the shape and size of the reconstructed breast to its original form, nipple reconstruction generally is not part of the process. The reconstructed breast also will not have the sensitivity of a natural breast.
Many women are concerned with the evenness of their breasts after reconstructive surgery. Although a plastic surgeon cannot guarantee that the reconstructed breast will be a perfect match with the remaining breast, advancements in surgical techniques and implants make it possible to achieve a very close likeness. The surgeon can also make the breasts look balanced when a bra is worn.
If you are contemplating a mastectomy, you may want to consider simultaneous breast reconstruction during the operation, assuming you are both physically and psychologically prepared. Many women, however, prefer to have breast reconstruction some time later.
While breast reconstruction can restore a woman’s self-confidence and perceived beauty, there are a number of medical risks to consider. If you are considering breast reconstruction surgery, be sure to consult a medical professional and thoroughly examine the risks and benefits before choosing to undergo the procedure.