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Opinions differ on the best time for reconstruction. It can be done at the time of the mastectomy|, or months or even years afterwards.
An immediate reconstruction is done at the same time as the mastectomy. When the breast tissue is removed, the overlying healthy skin can be preserved by the surgeon (skin-sparing mastectomy). This can allow a more natural result with less scarring than delayed reconstruction, where all the spare skin is removed during the mastectomy.
Once you’re fully recovered from the mastectomy and any treatments (such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy), you may choose to have a second operation to reconstruct your breast.
You can have breast reconstruction any time after your cancer treatment as there is no time limit on having a delayed reconstruction. However, if radiotherapy is part of your cancer treatment, you may have to wait for 6-12 months until the skin has recovered.
Some women choose to have their reconstruction many years after a mastectomy. When you’re coping| with a recent cancer diagnosis, you may find it difficult to take in all the information you need to make a decision about breast reconstruction. Some women prefer to focus on dealing with the cancer and decide on a delayed reconstruction once they’ve completed cancer treatment and are feeling stronger.
If you plan to have a reconstruction at a later date but then decide you don’t want to have further surgery, it’s fine to change your mind. It’s important you feel happy with your decision - you can discuss it with your surgeon, breast care nurse or a support organisation|.
Content last reviewed: 1 June 2011
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