Women who have scheduled a mastectomy for any reason are often aware of breast reconstruction, but may not know much about the procedure itself. Many aren’t even aware that there is more than one choice available to them! In fact, a survey released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that only 23% of women know that breast reconstruction comes with different options.
It’s hard to make a decision when you don’t have all the information! If this is something you’ve been considering, it’s important to understand that breast reconstruction is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis can use a variety of techniques to restore your breasts after surgery, helping you look and feel like yourself again.
A consultation with one of our surgeons will help you decide on the best option for your individual needs, and you can schedule one by clicking here. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the possible reconstruction choices you have.
Reconstruction with implants
The options for breast reconstruction are generally broken down into two categories: alloplastic and autologous. Alloplastic surgery uses some type of implant, normally saline or silicone. Autologous surgery uses a woman’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast.
Alloplastic reconstruction with implants tends to be the most popular choice. This operation is limited to the breast site, and doesn’t require any surgery outside of that. The surgery itself can be shorter and less complicated, and recovery times are also faster. Implants are not typically permanent, however, and most will need to be replaced eventually. This will depend on changes in the soft tissue at the breast and whether or not the implants show any signs of potential compromise.
There are also size restrictions on implants. Women with a larger body type may have trouble finding an implant that gives them the profile they desire. Additionally, radiation therapy can increase the risk of complication with alloplastic reconstruction. If you’ve already had radiation treatment for breast cancer, implants may not be the best option for you. This is something your surgeon will discuss with you during your consultation.
Reconstruction using your body’s own tissue
Autologous reconstruction involves recreating the breast using tissue taken from another area of your body, like your abdomen, back, buttocks, or thighs. Since it’s your own tissue being used, you don’t have to worry about any implant-related complications or future removal.
You can also achieve larger volumes with this type of reconstruction, so it may be recommended for women who have a larger body size. If you’ve had radiation treatment, autologous surgery can help replace any lost tissue with healthy tissue. In general, this procedure can be a good choice for women who can’t have or don’t want implants.
That being said, autologous reconstruction does require an incision outside the breast site, which increases the risk of scarring and potential complications. Because of this, recovery time may be closer to 6-8 weeks compared to 2-3 weeks for implant reconstruction.
We can sometimes use oncoplastic reconstruction methods to preserve as much breast tissue and skin as possible during a mastectomy. This reduces scarring and allows for reconstruction using the remaining breast tissue and skin. It does require your surgical oncologist to work with the plastic surgeon in charge of your breast reconstruction, so you’ll want to speak to both of them about this option prior to either surgery. By working together, your providers will be able to develop a customized breast reconstruction plan that fits your particular needs and personal goals.
Nipple and areola reconstruction
With both alloplastic and autologous reconstructions, nipple and areola reconstruction will normally be performed after the initial procedure. Nipple-sparing mastectomies are an option for some women, but this will depend on oncologic and reconstructive criteria.
If the nipple is removed, surgical restoration is sometimes possible. 3D nipple tattoos are another option for adding a natural and realistic look to your reconstructed breast.
The question of timing
Some women are able to schedule their breast reconstruction at the same time as their breast cancer surgery, while others may wait until a later date. While immediate reconstruction limits the number of surgeries necessary, it isn’t always an option. Your treatment plan and the condition of the breast skin post-mastectomy will be considered when exploring the best timing for you. If radiation is likely, or the breast skin is compromised after surgery, a delayed reconstruction might be the better choice.
Not all women want surgical reconstruction, but would still like to augment the shape of the breast that has been removed. There are a number of high-quality prosthetics available that can be molded into a bra in order to present a more symmetrical appearance when clothed. Some women opt for no reconstruction at all, including prosthetic breasts. Only you can decide what’s best for you.
Find the right reconstruction for you with Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis
Choosing reconstructive surgery is a very personal decision, and we want you to feel confident in our care. At Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis, you’ll find a calm atmosphere and comfortable environment that ensure your privacy and confidentiality. Our experienced staff is welcoming and friendly, and our goal is to provide you with a rewarding and stress-free experience, from start to finish.
There is no ideal breast reconstruction suitable for all patients, and it’s important to know the options you have for restoring a sense of wholeness to your body. During your consultation with one of our plastic surgeons, each type of reconstruction will be explained in full to help you make your decision. Call 901-761-9030 for more information, or click here to schedule a visit with us.