Breast reconstruction is done by an oncoplastic breast surgeon (breast reconstructive surgeon) or a plastic surgeon.
Oncoplastic surgeons are trained in breast cancer surgery and some types of breast reconstruction. Plastic surgeons usually do the more complex breast reconstruction operations. You may need to travel to a plastic surgery unit to have these.
In some hospitals, two surgeons may work together. A breast surgeon removes the breast (mastectomy). Then a plastic surgeon makes the new breast shape.
A new breast shape can be made:
- with a breast implant
- by using tissue taken from another part of your body
- with a combination of an implant and tissue taken from another part of your body.
Your surgeon will advise you on the types of reconstruction that are most suitable for you. They will show you photos of women who have had breast reconstruction.
You can bring a relative or friend to your appointments for support. They can help you remember what was discussed.
Your surgeon or specialist nurse may help you contact women who have had breast reconstruction so you can talk to them about it. You may also want to discuss breast reconstruction with women on our Online Community.
Questions for your breast surgeon
- What types of reconstruction surgery would you recommend for me and why?
- What are the benefits, limitations and risks of this type of surgery?
- When is the best time for me to have a reconstruction?
- Where can I have this surgery?
- Who can perform this type of surgery?
- If I need to have radiotherapy, will this affect the reconstruction or type of reconstruction I should have?
Questions for your breast reconstructive surgeon
- What types of reconstruction would be suitable for me?
- What are the risks or complications of the different types of surgery, and what are the chances of them happening?
- How long will the operation take?
- How long will I have to wait before I can have the surgery?
- Should I see a plastic surgeon?
- Can I talk to someone who has had this type of operation?
There are also questions you might want to ask your surgeon about their experience. These could include:
- What experience do you have in reconstructive surgery?
- How many of these operations do you do each year?
- Will you be doing the operation yourself?
- Are there any ‘before and after’ pictures I can see of your previous work?
You may also have questions about the effect breast reconstruction will have on your life. These might include:
- How long will I be in hospital?
- Where will my scars be and what will they look like?
- After surgery, how long will it take before I can go back to everyday activities?
- What can I expect my reconstructed breast to look and feel like immediately after surgery? How about 6 months or a year after surgery?
- Will I need any further surgery in the future after having a reconstruction?
You may find the answers to some of these questions in our information. But you should still check them with your surgeon, as there may be slight differences.
Before you have any operation, your surgeon will explain its aims and what to expect. They will ask you to sign a form giving your permission (consent) for the operation to take place.
Breast reconstruction can be complex, so you may need several discussions with your surgeon and nurse. It is a good idea to have a relative or friend with you to help you to remember what was said.
If there is anything you do not understand, ask your surgeon or nurse so they can explain again. They should always give you time to ask questions.
If you are thinking about having delayed reconstruction, you can take your time to decide on the operation. If you are thinking about having an immediate reconstruction, you may need to make a decision more quickly. But it is still important be as sure as possible that you are happy with your decision.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our breast cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015.
Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Rebecca Roylance, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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