What is breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is surgery to make a new breast shape after an operation to remove the breast (mastectomy). Breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as a mastectomy, or delayed for a few months, or even years.

  • There are three main types of breast reconstruction:
  • reconstruction using a breast implant
  • reconstruction using your own tissue
  • reconstruction using both and implant and your own tissue.

Your surgeon will advise you on the type of surgery that is most suitable for you. This will depend on several things – including the size of your breasts, how much breast tissue has been removed and your preference.

You will probably need more than one operation to create your final breast(s). In the first operation the surgeon creates a breast shape. You may be offered further procedures to improve the appearance of your breast.

If your nipple was removed, you can choose to have a new nipple made. This is often done once the new breast has had time to settle into its final shape, usually after about six months.

Breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is surgery to replace your breast shape after a mastectomy. A mastectomy is an operation to remove the whole breast (or as much breast tissue as possible). Breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as a mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), a few months, or even years afterwards (delayed reconstruction).

If you’ve had a bilateral or contralateral mastectomy (the removal of both breasts) to reduce your risk of developing cancer, breast reconstruction will create new breast shapes.

If you are having one breast reconstructed, following cancer treatment, the surgeon will try to match the new breast to your other breast as closely as possible. You may also be offered surgery to your other breast to help match your breasts.

Breast reconstruction usually involves more than one operation. The first operation creates a breast shape. Then, further procedures may be done to improve the appearance of your breast.

The new breast shape can be made with a breast implant, or by using tissue taken from another part of your body, or a combination of both. Your surgeon will advise you on the type of reconstruction that is most suitable for you.

Many women who have a mastectomy have their nipple removed as part of the operation. If you decide to have a new nipple made you would usually have this done as a separate operation. It’s normally done a few months after when the new breast has settled into its final shape.

Women who have part of their breast removed (lumpectomy) usually don’t need a full breast reconstruction. But, if the appearance of the breast isn’t right after a lumpectomy, some of the techniques described in this section can be used to help.


Types of breast reconstruction

There are three main types of breast reconstruction:

Reconstruction using a breast implant

This is when an implant is placed under the skin and muscle that covers your chest to create a breast shape.

Reconstruction using your own tissue

This is when skin, fat and sometimes muscle from another part of your body is used to make a new breast. This type of operation is more complex than using an implant.

Reconstruction using both an implant and your own tissue

This is when the surgeon creates a breast shape using both an implant and skin, fat and sometimes muscle taken from another part of your body.

Your surgeon will advise you on the type of reconstruction that’s most suitable for you. It will depend on:

  • how much of your breast tissue has been removed
  • how healthy the tissue is on your breast and on other areas of your body that may be used (donor sites)
  • whether you’ve had radiotherapy to the breast area or chest wall
  • the shape and size of your breasts
  • your preference
  • your general health and body build.


Back to Having breast reconstruction

Making your decision

An important part of making your decision about breast reconstruction is having realistic expectations about the result.

Your feelings

Breast reconstruction surgery can cause many different emotions. It can take time to adjust to your new breast(s).

Talking to your surgeon

Your reconstruction surgeon will explain what types of operation can be done and answer any questions you have.