Breast reconstruction is surgery to rebuild the shape of your breast after you have had part or all of your breast removed because of cancer. It may also be done for women who have problems with breast development. Your doctor may create a breast form with an implant that is put under the skin and often under the chest muscle in your breast area. You and your doctor will plan your surgery based on your wishes, your overall health, and how much surgery and treatment were done for the cancer. Every woman's treatment plan and breast surgery are different.
Breast reconstruction usually takes more than one surgery. The nipple and the brown area around it, called the areola, are usually recreated at a later time. Your doctor may also use a balloon (tissue expander) to stretch your skin and muscle for several months before the final implant is put in. The balloon is gradually expanded with a saltwater solution every 1 to 2 weeks until the tissue is ready. This happens in your doctor's office.
You will likely be asleep during your surgery, and you may be given a medicine that numbs the breast area. After your surgery, you will probably be able to go home the same day or the next day. Depending on the type of work you do, you should be able to go back to work or your normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. The cuts (incisions) leave scars that will fade with time. Your doctor may try to use the same incisions that were used to remove your cancer. Your doctor will try to make incisions that leave as few visible scars as possible.
It is important to know that your breasts will look different after surgery. Your new breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your other breast. The new breast may not have the same shape as your breast did before it was removed. Some women have surgery on the other breast to make them look as much alike as possible.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Having surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: March 28, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Laura S. Dominici, MD - Surgery, General Surgery, Oncology
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