A mastectomy or double mastectomy due to breast cancer can be a traumatic experience. Losing one or both breasts often causes women to feel like a part of their identity as women is gone forever. Breast reconstruction can be a vital step toward healing, restoring self confidence and feeling whole again. But what is breast reconstruction really like? And what can a woman expect after her breasts have been reconstructed?
Every woman will heal differently after breast reconstruction. That said, there are a few things to expect.
Immediately After Surgery
The amount of time you spend in the hospital after surgery depends on the kind of reconstruction that you undergo. There are several different types of reconstruction, and which is right for you depends on your unique body. Some amount of short-term pain is expected after every surgery. Your doctor can help you relieve the pain with medication appropriate for you.
The emotional trauma of breast reconstruction is often more intense than the physical pain. Many women find it difficult to look at themselves in the mirror directly after a mastectomy, and even after a mastectomy immediately followed by reconstruction.
It is completely normal to find yourself feeling odd looking in the mirror. It’s also normal to feel sad about the loss of your breasts or the replacement of your breasts with synthetic ones. Every woman goes through reconstruction differently; no reaction is wrong.
A Month Later
Most women undergo physical therapy to recover from breast reconstruction, no matter which type of reconstruction they choose. Physical therapy helps women regain strength, feel more comfortable with their new breasts, learn their new physical limitations, and the look and feel of their new breasts.
Around this time, most women can also return to work. Returning to work can be emotionally stressful, however, because some women feel self-conscious about how they look. Again, this is totally normal. There is a natural connection between one’s identity and how one looks, and when one’s body is altered in any significant way, feelings of self-consciousness often arise.
Anxiety and depression can occur as women go shopping for new clothes, go on dates, or simply take walks out on the town. It’s important to treat yourself with kindness and understanding while continuing to process this difficult time.
Several Months Later
The final stage of breast reconstruction is nipple reconstruction. It’s usually performed around six months after the original reconstruction. Not everyone chooses to undergo nipple reconstruction, though it can be another step toward feeling like oneself again. Nipple reconstruction makes the breasts look and feel more natural.
While nipple reconstruction is an outpatient procedure, it does involve healing. The area around the nipple will be sensitive and painful for several days after the procedure, but usually this final step helps women feel more confident with the look and feel of their breasts.
One Year Later
A year after your breast reconstruction, your breasts should be fully healed. That said, your breasts will continue to change as you age. While your breasts will never feel the same as they did before your mastectomy, after a year or more they may regain some sensation and should begin to feel like a natural part of your body.
If you’re a woman in need of reconstruction, don’t hesitate to apply for a grant from AiRS!
Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy due to cancer is often a vital step toward feeling whole again. But many women cannot afford the procedure, which can be costly. That’s why we at the AiRS Foundation offer grants for women to receive reconstruction. Applying for one of our grants for breast reconstruction is easy!
We’ve tried our best to make the application as straightforward as possible, and we have a fast return rate, so you’ll know the status of your application quickly. Here’s where you can learn more about how to apply. If you are a woman in need of reconstruction, we hope to hear from you. It’s our mission to help you feel whole again!