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.