A diagnosis of breast cancer is a life-changing event. Luckily, there are a variety of breast reconstruction techniques available to help restore one’s image and self-confidence and make women feel whole again after a mastectomy. Depending on your cancer diagnosis and clinical situation, reconstruction may be performed in an immediate or delayed fashion. An immediate reconstruction is achieved at the same time as a mastectomy, while a delayed reconstruction may be done approximately three months or longer after the initial surgery. A procedure may be delayed for further cancer treatment and/or to allow for treated tissues to recover prior to your reconstruction.
What is breast reconstruction surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery attempts to restore a women’s breast following lumpectomy or mastectomy recovery. This can be achieved using implants, your own tissue (autologous flap), or a combination of your tissue and implants. A personalized consultation with Dr. Belz will help determine the best options for you and allow you to make an informed decision regarding your breast reconstruction.
What are my options?
Implant-based reconstruction is the most common form of breast reconstruction. It is typically performed in a staged fashion, with a tissue expander or spacer and acellular dermal matrix placed at the time of mastectomy. Over several months, the tissue expander is filled in the office. A second procedure is performed in the operating room to remove the temporary expander and replace it with a permanent breast implant once expansion has been achieved. This is often done in conjunction with a technique known as fat grafting, which helps smoothen the contours of the reconstructed breast. On occasion, patients may be candidates for a direct to implant breast reconstruction.
Autologous-based reconstruction uses one’s own body tissue. This may include tissue from your back (latissimus flap) or abdomen (TRAM or DIEP flap). Flap procedures are also usually achieved in a staged fashion with a revision surgery performed 3-6 months following the initial reconstruction.
Once a patient’s tissue has settled, a nipple reconstruction can be performed using a variety of different techniques. This is typically an outpatient procedure and usually involves a rearrangement of local tissue.
During your individualized consultation, Dr. Belz will discuss your breast reconstruction options, the risks and benefits of surgery, and the anticipated post-operative recovery course.