Are you or someone you love considering breast reconstruction surgery after having a mastectomy? While breast reconstruction is often a step toward emotional and physical healing, the procedure can be just as daunting as the mastectomy itself. Knowing what to expect from reconstruction before you begin the process can make it easier for you and the people you love.
The kind of breast reconstruction you receive depends on your individual body. First, you will sit down with a plastic surgeon to go over the options available to you. If you have not yet had the mastectomy, you may have the option of either immediately reconstructing the breast during the same surgical period as the mastectomy or delaying the reconstruction for a later date. There are three types of breast reconstruction: implant-based, a combination of implant and autologous tissue breast and autologous tissue breast.
1. Implant-Based Reconstruction
During implant-based reconstruction, the breast is replaced with an artificial breast implant. These are specially shaped bags that contain either saline (salt water) or silicon gel. This kind of breast reconstruction can be done immediately after a mastectomy or later on.
2. Combination of Implant and Autologous Tissue Reconstruction
With this combination option, tissue from the back (the latissimus dorsi muscle) along with an implant is used to reconstruct the breast.
3. Autologous Tissue Breast Reconstruction
This is the construction of a breast using your body’s own fat instead of an artificial implant. The tissue may come from your abdomen, buttock or thighs and consists of only fat and skin without the need to sacrifice important muscles.
What Happens During Reconstruction
During implant-based reconstruction, the surgeon first places a device called an expander under the chest muscles, which is then filled with saline during additional visits. Once the tissue has healed, the expander is replaced with a saline or silicone gel implant.
During autologous reconstruction, a piece of tissue called a flap is removed from one section of the body and used to recreate the breast. Sometimes, the tissue and attached blood vessels are moved together. In other cases, the tissue is cut free from its blood supply and attached to new blood vessels in the chest.
While both procedures restore the breast, women who would also like their nipples restored must undergo additional procedures. The new nipple is often created by moving a small piece of skin from the reconstructed breast, molding it into the shape of a nipple, and then moving it to the nipple area.
Help the AiRS Foundation
Breast reconstruction is often an essential part of healing after a mastectomy. That’s why we work to make sure every woman, regardless of their financial situation, has the option of reconstruction. The AiRS Foundation relies on grants and donations to fund all of our initiatives. If you or someone you know has had a mastectomy due to breast cancer, would you consider making a donation? We have a number of donation levels and no gift is too big or too small!