Breast reconstruction is surgery to rebuild the size and shape of a breast after your breast has been removed (mastectomy) because of cancer. It is done by a plastic surgeon. Your breast surgeon can refer you to a surgeon who has special training in breast reconstruction.
Reconstruction can be done at the same time as a mastectomy or at a later time. If you need to have radiation therapy after mastectomy, your breast reconstruction may need to wait until after you have finished radiation and the tissue has healed.
Before your mastectomy is scheduled, talk to your doctor about breast reconstruction. It would be best to decide with your entire medical team about when to have reconstruction. Your medical team may include your radiologist, surgeon, plastic surgeon, and medical oncologist.
A reconstructed breast will not look or feel just the way your breast did, but most women are happy with the results. To get an idea of what to expect, tell your surgeon that you want to:
Making a decision about breast reconstruction can feel very stressful. But talking with your doctor or plastic surgeon will help you find your best options.
There are two types of breast reconstruction:
If you want, the surgeon can also make a new nipple and areola (the darker area around the nipple). This is usually done 3 or 4 months after breast reconstruction to give the new breast time to heal.
Most women are able to have breast reconstruction. But some conditions increase your risk of serious problems after surgery. Talk to your doctor about whether breast reconstruction is possible for you if you smoke, are obese, or have a serious health problem such as diabetes.
If you choose not to have reconstruction or to wait, you can use a bra insert (prosthesis) to help your clothes fit better.
|Breast reconstruction||No breast reconstruction|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I kind of went into shock when my doctor told me I had breast cancer and would need to have my right breast removed. I started listening again when she described how I could have my breast reshaped. Knowing I could have this done right away before I even woke up from the mastectomy made the whole thing easier to deal with. I chose to have DIEP flap surgery, using tissue from my belly. I knew it would take awhile to heal and look like a breast, and I did have to have surgery on my left breast to help them match. But I am so glad I did it. It has helped me feel stronger after the trauma of cancer."
— Claudia, age 42
"When my doctor first mentioned that I could have my breast rebuilt after the mastectomy, I was kind of interested. I didn't know they could do things like that, taking tissue from your back or belly. But the more I thought about it, the more it didn't feel right for me. It seemed like a distraction when all I wanted to focus on was beating the cancer and getting back to my life. I talked to my husband about it, and he totally supported my decision. Maybe sometime down the road I might change my mind. But for now I use a prosthesis in my bra, and this works fine."
— Patrice, age 51
"I had my left breast removed 3 years ago and my right breast removed last year. I chose at that time to get implants on both sides. I have been pleased with the results. I swim every morning, and having the implants has helped me feel more balanced again. I feel so fortunate to live in a time when we have these options. My mother, who had breast cancer 40 years ago, was not so lucky."
— Jewel, age 73
"When I got cancer in one breast, I decided to have both breasts removed at the same time. I didn't have any type of reconstruction. There's nothing wrong with it, I just don't think you have to have breasts to be a woman. I am proud to be a breast cancer survivor (going on 6 years now cancer-free), and I use my story and my scars to help other women who are facing the same fight."
— Kerry-Ann, age 45
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to choose breast reconstruction
Reasons not to choose breast reconstruction
I know I won't look the same as I did before, but I don't want to wake up from surgery without a breast.
I just don't feel up to facing more surgery at this point.
Having reconstruction will help me feel more like a cancer survivor and less like a cancer victim.
At this point I want to focus on fighting the cancer. I'll worry about the way I look later.
I am willing to commit to a lot of follow-up with my doctor to get a new breast.
I want to heal and move on as soon as possible. I'll wear a prosthesis.
I would not feel like a whole woman without a breast.
Being without a breast won't affect how I feel about myself as a woman.
I'm not worried about possible complications from reconstruction surgery.
I'm very worried about the possible complications from surgery.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Having breast reconstruction
NOT having breast reconstruction
1. If I want to have breast reconstruction, it has to be done at the same time as my mastectomy.
2. If I don't have breast reconstruction, I can wear bra inserts to help my clothes fit better.
3. I might not be able to have breast reconstruction if I smoke, am obese, or have a serious health problem such as diabetes.
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology|