Breast reconstruction after risk-reducing breast surgery
Breast reconstruction is an operation to make a new breast shape after a mastectomy. It can be done at the same time as risk-reducing mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or some time later (delayed reconstruction).
Most women choose to have breast surgery and reconstruction done at the same time. This leaves fewer scars and can result in a better appearance (cosmetic outcome). Also, fewer operations are needed.
However, there may be more complications associated with carrying out both procedures at the same time.
Before having your surgery, it’s important to discuss with your breast surgeon the advantages and disadvantages of immediate or delayed reconstruction so you can decide what’s best for you.
Breast reconstruction is an operation to make a new breast shape after a mastectomy. The new breast shape can be made with a breast implant, by using tissue taken from another part of your body, or by a combination of both techniques.
Your breast surgeon will advise you on the types of reconstruction that are most suitable for you. Women often have a choice of more than one type of reconstruction. The types of reconstruction that are suitable for you will depend on your:
general health and body build
The aim of breast reconstruction is to try to create breast shapes that look and feel as natural as possible. Results from breast reconstruction will vary depending on your age, your general health and your skin.
If you smoke there is a greater risk of problems with all types of reconstruction, as smoking can affect how well the wounds heal.
To learn more about reconstructive breast surgery options and the risks associated with them, you can talk to your surgeon. You can also ask to see photographs of women who’ve had breast reconstruction. It may also be helpful to talk to women who have had reconstruction after a risk-reducing mastectomy.
We also have an online community of people who share their cancer experiences with each other. Visit macmillan.org.uk/community
Knowing about the different breast reconstruction options will help you make the decision that’s right for you.
Thinking about reconstruction
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It’s important to have realistic expectations about the possible result of breast reconstruction. You’ll need to think about the benefits and consider the limitations before making a decision about whether to have it done.
Some women who have risk-reducing breast surgery choose not to have reconstruction. They might prefer to wear breast forms (prostheses/false breasts) and a special bra.
If you decide not to have breast reconstruction and want to know more about breast forms, bras and clothes for after surgery, Breast Cancer Care produces some helpful information.
Benefits of breast reconstruction
In clothes (including underwear and swimwear) your appearance will be similar to before the surgery.
You won’t have to wear external breast forms (prostheses) or a special bra.
You’ll have a cleavage and be able to wear clothes with a low neckline.
It can help to restore your self-confidence and feelings of femininity, attractiveness and sexuality.
If you ever need tests to look at the breast area, such as mammograms or MRI scans, these can still be taken. However, you won’t routinely need these tests after risk-reducing surgery.
Limitations of breast reconstruction
The reconstructed breasts won’t feel or look exactly the same as before the surgery. They won’t be as sensitive and may be numb.
Most women need several visits to the hospital and further minor operations to get the best cosmetic results.
Recovery takes longer than mastectomy without reconstruction.
You may have scars elsewhere on the body (depending on the type of reconstruction).
The risk of infection or other surgical complications is greater.
Breast reconstruction doesn’t increase the chance of a cancer developing and it won’t hide a cancer.