Talking about breast reconstruction with your surgeon
Breast reconstruction is specialised surgery. Surgeons who carry out this type of operation may be plastic surgeons or oncoplastic surgeons.
In general, plastic surgeons will carry out reconstruction after a breast surgeon has removed the cancer in the breast with a mastectomy. Oncoplastic surgeons are trained in both breast cancer surgery and reconstruction surgery, so they can perform both types of operation.
Some types of breast reconstruction operations need to be carried out by a surgeon who is skilled in microsurgery (a reconstructive plastic surgeon). Microsurgery is performed using a microscope, which helps the reconstructive surgeon see very fine blood vessels that need to be joined. You may need to travel to your regional plastic surgery unit, which may be some distance from your home, to have this type of operation.
You can ask your breast cancer surgeon or specialist nurse if there is a surgeon in your hospital who carries out breast reconstruction. If there’s not, your surgeon can refer you to a reconstructive specialist at another hospital.
I was shown realistic photos of women at my appointment. There was a scrapbook of "before and after" photos with each type of reconstruction and the negative points, such as the scarring, for each. It was very helpful.
When you see your surgeon, you can ask them about their experience in breast reconstruction. You can also ask to see photographs of reconstructions they’ve done. This can help to give you an idea of what may be possible with the surgery.
Your surgeon or specialist nurse may also be able to put you in contact with women who have had breast reconstruction so you can talk to them about it.
You may also want to discuss breast reconstruction with other women on our online community.
Some questions to ask your surgeons
It often helps to have a list of questions to ask your surgeons.
Both your breast surgeon and your reconstructive surgeon will be sensitive to your thoughts and feelings about breast reconstruction, so don’t be afraid to ask about anything you’re concerned about.
Some questions you might want to ask your breast surgeon:
What type of reconstructive surgery would you recommend for me and why?
What are the benefits, limitations and risks of this surgery?
When is the best time for me to have a reconstruction?
Where can I have this surgery?
Who can do this type of surgery?
Some questions you may want to ask your reconstruction surgeon:
What experience do you have in this type of surgery?
What can I expect my reconstructed breast to look and feel like: immediately after surgery, six months after surgery, a year after surgery?
What will the scar(s) be like?
How long will I need to stay in hospital for?
How long will my recovery take?
What do I need to do to help my recovery?
Can I see pictures of the results of the different types of operations?
Can I talk to someone who has had this type of operation?