After a woman's diagnosed with breast cancer, breast reconstruction surgery can restore a sense of wholeness in her body.
Federal law mandates that breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, be covered by health plans. This includes procedures done on the opposite breast to improve symmetry.
The most popular technique for reconstruction is to use implants. Initially, a tissue expander is inserted to gradually stretch the breast skin and pectoralis muscle over the course of a few months.
Nipple and areola reconstruction is usually performed later if a traditional mastectomy has been performed.
Over the past several years, nipple-sparing mastectomy has become an option for a limited number of women (depending on oncologic and reconstructive criteria).
The scarring from expander/implant reconstruction is identical to that from mastectomy alone. Women usually spend one night in the hospital and recovery takes 1-2 weeks.
Other options for breast reconstruction include using a back muscle (latissimus dorsi) flap or lower abdominal skin, fat and muscle (TRAM) flap.
Your plastic surgeon can discuss the details of each type of reconstruction to help you make your decision.