Choosing whether to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy due to breast cancer is a complicated decision for any woman. That’s the reason we sat down to chat with Dr. Sumeet S. Teotia, Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery and Director of the Breast Reconstruction Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center. We asked him to tell us what helps a patient make decisions, as well as some of the choices available for reconstruction surgery.
Choosing the right team.
First and foremost, it’s important that you feel comfortable with the surgical and medical team who will help you through reconstruction, says Dr. Teotia. That means not only feeling good about your plastic surgeon, but also the nursing support and office staff who will be there to guide you through paperwork, recovery, and more.
Tissue or implants.
Many plastic surgeons, including Dr. Teotia, like to sit down with their patients to talk about the options for reconstruction. Because this can be an overwhelming situation, made even more so by the breast cancer itself, he notes that there are two primary choices when it comes to reconstruction: using your tissue or going with implants. In rare cases, a combination of both may be utilized.
Dr. Teotia and other surgeons then walk their patients through the two options, emphasizing that the medical technology of both can produce natural results.
Immediate or delayed.
Patients can then choose between immediate or delayed reconstruction, says Dr. Teotia.
Immediate means having reconstruction during the same surgery as the mastectomy. Delayed means coming back for a second surgery after the mastectomy. Patients may choose either based on a number of factors.
Women with more aggressive forms of breast cancer may choose the delayed option because it might fit better with their treatment plan. Others may choose the delayed option because they aren’t ready to make a complex decision about reconstruction yet.
As Dr. Teotia points out: there’s no rush. Whether you prefer reconstruction immediately or after some time is entirely up to you.
How long does it take?
While reconstruction from start to finish takes about the same amount of time for tissue or implant reconstruction, every patient is unique. Some may complete the reconstruction in a single stage operation. Others, especially those still undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may come back for multiple surgeries over several years time.
“It’s an artistic journey,” says Dr. Teotia.
How do you know if it’s right for you?
Ultimately, whether breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is right depends on the patient’s needs and desires. Dr. Teotia makes a point of never pushing his patients one way or the other. Some may want reconstruction to feel healed and whole after cancer. Others may prefer to forego the procedure and honor the body they have.
“It is their journey, it is their surgery, and they’re the owner of their decision,” he says.
Help us help women with breast cancer!
The AiRS Foundation helps women receive reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy from breast cancer. Reconstruction is an essential part of feeling whole again for many women impacted by this disease. Want to make a contribution? Donations of any size are of enormous help to us! Make a donation today!