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How can breast reconstruction help after breast cancer surgery?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery
Breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery can help improve a woman's body image. If a woman is not comfortable with how the chest looks after breast surgery, reconstruction is an option to help restore the chest to a natural appearance.

If your breast cancer surgery involves removing the whole breast (mastectomy), you may want to have the breast reconstructed. This can happen at the same time as your cancer surgery, or afterward. A plastic surgeon can insert a saline or silicone implant under the chest muscle, or tissue from another part of your body (such as the back or abdomen) may be used to re-form the breast shape. The areola and nipple are often reconstructed a few months later, after your reconstructed breast has healed, using tissue from your body.

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery

After your breast cancer surgery or mastectomy, breast reconstruction can greatly improve your self-esteem and recreate a normal shape to your breast.  This can either occur concurrently during the mastectomy and/or lymphadenectomy with the breast cancer reconstruction or it can take place as a delayed surgical reconstruction after the mastectomy and clearance from pathology has taken place.  Forms of breast cancer reconstruction include silicon implant reconstruction or silicone implants with flap reconstruction, including pedicle flaps such as latissimus dorsi flap or muscle flap from the back, or TRAM flap or transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap, tissue taken from the lower abdomen as with an abdominoplasty and brought up to the breast region.  A final reconstruction may include a free tissue flap where tissue is removed with blood vessels and anastomosed via microscope to the breast artery and vein.  Breast reconstruction will greatly enhance not only your breast to recreate a normal appearance but also to help your self-esteem.

For many women, reconstruction after mastectomy maintains body image, restores a sense of femininity, and helps recovery from the devastation of breast cancer. A patient of mine summarized it this way: "Breast reconstruction may not be a (breast cancer) cure, but for me it was part of my healing." 

Every patient is affected differently by the loss of her breast. Many patients choose breast reconstruction to maintain an overall sense of femininity and diminish the devastation of loosing a breast. Some have a reconstruction to diminish perceived social awkwardness. (There are many good-hearted breast cancer survivors with stories of prosthetics floating away in a pool or unwittingly being left behind on the gym floor). 

While the reconstructed breast mound is not physiologically the same as the original breast, many woman have expressed appreciation to have a diminished reminder of the struggle with breast cancer. Most woman have several options for reconstruction, and these should be discussed with a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon.
Breast reconstruction can help women after cancer by making them feel as normal as possible. Many women who undergo mastectomy feel like something has been taken from them which makes up part of their womanhood. Breast reconstruction can help them with their self esteem and feeling normal after cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.