While breast reconstruction may technically be an optional surgery, many women feel it is a nonnegotiable procedure following their mastectomies. Breast reconstruction can help to restore the size, shape, and feel of lost breast tissue after a partial or complete removal of breast tissue. Many women opt for reconstruction of their breasts after biopsies, single or double mastectomies. If you’re facing the tough choice for yourself, here’s what you can expect from the breast reconstruction procedure.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
One of the major things that all patients must understand is that all breast reconstruction surgeries are not alike. This is a highly individualized process that involves different techniques and strategies in order to achieve the right results for each and every patient. Following a mastectomy, many women opt for breast reconstruction. The method of the mastectomy, the amount of breast tissue removed, and the woman’s body measurements and tissue elasticity can all play a factor in how a surgery is performed.
Typically, breast reconstruction consists of multiple operations, beginning with the creation of the breast mound. This is performed under general anesthesia, either directly after a mastectomy or later on as a separate procedure. From here, the breast can be reconstructed using a variety of methods, with and without implants. The specifics of your surgery will be discussed during your breast reconstruction consultation with a licensed plastic surgeon.
After Your Breast Reconstruction
Most patients experience some soreness and fatigue for about two weeks after a breast implant surgery, often longer after a flap procedure. To help you manage any pain and discomfort you are feeling, your plastic surgeon will prescribe pain medication and recommend other tactics to ease swelling. Depending on the specifics of your surgery, you may spend part of your recovery time in the hospital and get discharged anywhere from a day to a week following your procedure. You will likely be given a specialty support garment to wear as your breasts heal. Follow your surgeon’s instructions closely to make sure that you recover fully and without complications.
Expectations About Breast Reconstruction
Every woman has her own preconceived notions about what to expect from her breast reconstruction surgery, her recovery, and her personal results. Of course, not all of these expectations can be true at once. To help you be fully prepared for every aspect of your procedure, here are a few of the things you should definitely expect:
- Recovery takes six to eight weeks, a period during which you will gradually improve and begin to feel better. Discuss your recovery specifics with your plastic surgeon so you have a clearer timeline.
- You will likely not experience restored feeling to your breasts at first, but some patients may regain some feeling over a period of years.
- Swelling and bruising may make it hard to see your final results, sometimes lasting as long as 8 weeks to fully subside.
- Your scars will gradually fade over the course of the next one or two years, but they will most likely remain visible.
- For several weeks, you will be asked to wear a specialty support garment instead of a regular bra. Follow your surgeon’s recommendations about when to switch back.
- Most patients require some emotional adjustment as they recover from their breast mastectomy and reconstruction. It is very normal to experience a wide range of emotions. Talk to your doctor, friends and family, or a mental health professional to work through these feelings.
If you’re worried about the unknowns of your breast reconstruction surgery, talk with real patients who have experienced it firsthand. Join a support group where you can feel comfortable asking tough questions about your recovery and what results you should realistically expect. In addition to feeling more comfortable about the procedure, you might make a new friend or two who will support you through the process.
Timing Your Breast Reconstruction
For the right surgical candidates, breast reconstruction can be performed as an add-on to the mastectomy itself. Basically, these patients will undergo the loss and reconstruction of their breasts all in one procedure, recovering just once. There are many factors that might make a patient ineligible for a simultaneous breast reconstruction, however, so many women are forced to wait months or years. If you are obese, have high blood pressure, or smoke, you may be asked to wait. Some patients choose to wait to give themselves time to heal, come to terms with their cancer, and explore other alternatives. Once healthy enough and ready for surgery, former mastectomy patients can begin the process at any time. Through consulting with your plastic surgeon, you can get a better sense of the time commitment, number of surgeries, and amount of recovery time you will need to complete breast reconstruction.
When the time comes for you to decide what’s right for you, talk to your oncologist and your plastic surgeon about your fears, concerns, and your emotions too. Deciding if or when to undergo a breast reconstruction can be difficult, especially when you are concerned about your health and well-being. Make the decision that seems right for you once you’ve gathered all of the important information you need about your current treatments, your body, and the procedure itself.
Start With a Breast Reconstruction Consultation
Whether you’ve decided to have breast reconstruction surgery or you’re still on the fence, a consultation with a skilled plastic surgeon can help you get the information you need. Contact the office of Dr. Paul Vitenas. He will be happy to walk you through what you should expect from a body lift procedure or any other surgery that might address your areas of concern. To find out more, and schedule a consultation, Dr. Vitenas can be reached at his Houston-based practice at (281) 484-0088. His website has a wealth of information for prospective patients and can help you to decide if this procedure is right for you.