Breast cancer affects thousands of women each year. These women face many treatment decisions, incl...
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Breast cancer affects thousands of women each year. These women face many treatment decisions, including surgery to remove cancerous tissue. An important part of this discussion is the possibility of breast reconstruction. Many women are candidates for breast reconstruction after one or both breasts have been removed; however, most don't receive information about reconstruction options when making treatment decisions at diagnosis. Breast reconstruction can either be immediate - performed at the same time as mastectomy, or delayed - performed at a later date post-mastectomy. There are different techniques, approaches, and stages for each. The process typically involves two stages: placement of a tissue expander and then placement of a long-term implant. For immediate reconstruction, the expander is placed at the time of mastectomy. For delayed reconstruction, an incision is made using the original mastectomy incision and the tissue expander is inserted and properly positioned. The expander is like a balloon. At regular intervals over the next 4- 6 months, the plastic surgeon injects saline into it to stretch the skin and help keep scar tissue from forming. When enough tissue has stretched, the expander is replaced with a long term implant filled with saline or silicone gel. The nipple and areola can be reconstructed after the breast has healed using various techniques. In addition, tattooing of the areola may be done to match the other breast. Optimal patient outcomes depend on many factors. Speak to your doctor about breast reconstruction early. He or she can point you in the right direction and help you find a plastic surgeon that's right for you.