Breast reconstruction is a surgical cosmetic technique used to help women restore their breasts, especially breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomy. Though the breast looks near to natural in its size, shape, appearance and feeling, they will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast that was originally removed.
Unlike other breast procedures, such as breast augmentation, breast reduction or breast lift, which require both breasts to be operated simultaneously to improve the symmetry of breasts, breast reconstruction can be performed on a single breast as well.
Who is a candidate?
Breast reconstruction is without any doubt a physically and emotionally rewarding cosmetic procedure, but like other boob jobs, enlargement, reduction and lift, it is also a highly individualized surgery. It is strongly recommended that you do it for yourself after properly understanding the pros and cons of the surgery. It is also important that you feel ready for the emotional adjustment during the long recovery period.
All mastectomy patients can undergo breast reconstruction surgery and can have it done at the same time as mastectomy or delay it until she recovers from mastectomy and any other additional cancer treatment. An ideal candidate for breast reconstruction is the one who is able to cope with the diagnosis and treatment with a positive outlook and has realistic approach towards the outcomes of the surgery. Furthermore, she should not have a medical condition or illness that hampers healing process, such as diabetes.
How to prepare for the surgery?
During the initial consultation your surgeon will share with you a list of lab tests that are required for your medical and physical evaluation. Get lab testing and discuss them with your physician at least a day before the surgery. A list of necessary mediations, antibiotics, pain killers and muscle relaxants will also be shared with you. Have your prescriptions filled in advance and take them with you on the day of surgery. Avoid taking aspirin and aspirin containing products at least seven days prior to your surgery. If you are taking any herbal supplements, stop taking them as well, as they can increase bleeding. Also stop smoking and alcohol consumption well in advance of surgery.
Breast surgeries are mostly performed on outpatient basis but under general anesthesia. If your surgery is also performed on outpatient basis, arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you for at least 24 hours following surgery. You will be lethargic and drowsy after the surgery, courtesy general anesthesia.
Breast reconstruction procedure:
The most common technique used for breast reconstruction involves placing an implant in your chest. However, mastectomy leaves insufficient glandular tissues in the chest to cover and support artificial breast implants. Therefore, surgeons use either flap technique or tissue expansion technique. Depending on the condition of the breast, your plastic surgeon will decide which technique will be suitable for you.
Breast reconstruction recovery:
Following the surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room where gauze or bandages will be applied to the incisions. An elastic bandage will also be applied to support the operated breast and minimize swelling. Otherwise, you may be asked to wear support bra around the clock for at least a couple of weeks. Recovery will take several weeks. Continue to follow your surgeon’s instructions closely as your body heals. Also attend the follow-up visits regularly.
Risks associated with breast reconstruction surgery:
Breast reconstruction surgery is quite safe and does not involve any serious complications, but only when performed by experienced hands and post-op instructions are followed carefully. Not following your physician’s instructions could lead to serious complications including, breast pain and tenderness, breast tissue atrophy, calcium deposition, capsular contracture, infection and implant rupture.