For many women, breasts are an important symbol of femininity that helps define their body image and self-confidence. The emotional effects of an altered appearance can be as psychologically damaging as the initial breast cancer diagnosis. With today’s surgical advances, women who lose a breast due to cancer or other disease, now have more reconstructive options than ever available to them. New York City Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon Dr. Kaufman uses the latest surgical techniques to create a breast that is similar in appearance and form to the natural breast.
What is breast reconstruction surgery?
Breast reconstruction refers to several techniques which can be used to reconstruct the breast following mastectomy, or removal of the breast. Breast reconstruction surgery is a complicated set of surgical procedures involving several operations in order to recreate a reconstructed breast that can mimic the form and appearance of a natural breast. Today, reconstruction is often performed at the same time as mastectomy so that patients can awaken with a reconstructed breast. However, some women prefer to postpone reconstruction until months or even years after their mastectomy.
What can breast reconstruction do for me?
Breast reconstruction can help women who have lost a breast or both to cancer by reconstructing a natural-looking breast and restoring their self-confidence and sense of wholeness. With today’s advances in surgical techniques, Most of the aesthetic changes caused by breast cancer treatments such as a partial or simple mastectomy can be significantly helped by breast reconstruction surgery as well. Dr. Kaufman will advise you what type of reconstruction surgery technique is best for you.
Who is a candidate for breast reconstruction surgery?
Candidates for a breast reconstruction surgery include women who have had a mastectomy or who will be having a mastectomy. Women who are in relatively good health are ideal candidates, although women with medical conditions that are well-controlled at the time of surgery are good candidates for breast reconstruction surgery as well. Breast reconstruction which is performed at the same time as the mastectomy is called immediate breast reconstruction, while when it is performed months or years after mastectomy, it is called delayed breast reconstruction.
There are two basic types of breast reconstruction: those that use a breast implant to replace the removed breast tissue, and those that use skin and fat from another area of the body such as the abdomen, back, or buttocks, known as autologous tissue reconstruction. With both procedures, there are several different modifications that can be made to best suit the individual patient’s needs.
Implant-based breast reconstruction is performed much like breast augmentation surgery, with the use of either a silicone or saline-filled implant to replace breast tissue. Since mastectomy removes breast skin and glandular tissue, adequate coverage of the breast implant may require expansion of the remaining tissues of the breast using a tissue expander over a period of several weeks before replacing the expander with the permanent breast implant. Skin and soft tissue taken from the patient’s back can also be transferred to the breast area to cover the implant as well.
Autologous tissue-based breast reconstruction uses the patient’s own tissues, such as skin and fat, with or without muscle, from another place in the body to create the reconstructed breast. This flap of tissue may remain attached to its original blood supply or can be separated and reattached to the chest, known as “free-flap” breast reconstruction surgery. There are several different types of tissue flaps that can be used during breast reconstruction, and depending on your functional anatomy and specific needs, Dr. Kaufman will advise you of all the options available to you, and help you arrive at the best decision for your breast reconstruction surgery.
What about the opposite breast? Can it be treated during the same surgical procedure?
Regardless of which route of breast reconstruction is chosen, the opposite breast is often shaped with a breast lift to achieve symmetry and a good cosmetic outcome. Depending on the method chosen, the opposite mastectomy can be performed at the same time, or can be done in a delayed fashion. If opting for a procedure on the opposite breast, Dr. Kaufman will advise you as to the best timing of this part of the breast reconstruction.
The Breast Reconstruction Procedure
Initial Consultation Prior to Breast Reconstruction Surgery
At your initial consultation, Dr. Kaufman and you will carefully discuss your aesthetic concerns with regard to your breasts, and define a tailored plan for your reconstruction and overall appearance. Your goals and expectations will be carefully considered and clarified. Your medical and breast surgery history will be reviewed in detail, and a physical examination will be conducted. If performing immediate breast reconstruction, Dr. Kaufman will communicate with your breast surgeon to coordinate care. Otherwise, if performing a delayed breast reconstruction, Dr. Kaufman will review your history and advise you accordingly which type of reconstruction surgery technique is best for you.
Preparation for Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Breast Reconstruction surgery is major surgery and appropriate preparation is needed accordingly. Dr. Kaufman will communicate personally with your private medical doctor and breast surgeon to formulate the optimal plan. You may be asked necessary lab work, x-rays, and mammogram of the other breast. Precise preoperative instructions will be reviewed, and all necessary prescriptions will be given to you in advance of your breast reconstruction surgery. You will be instructed to avoid smoking, blood thinning medications, and all aspirin, aspirin-containing products, and anti-inflammatory products (Advil® or ibuprofen, and Aleve®) at least ten days before surgery. In order to promote optimal healing, a complete and comprehensive preoperative instructions will be provided for you, detailing which medications to avoid, and which vitamins , minerals, and homeopathic preparations are ok to take prior to and after breast reconstruction surgery.
What Type of Anesthesia do you need for breast reconstruction surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed in the hospital under general anesthesia. Dr. Kaufman and our team of Board-certified anesthesiologists will extensively discuss all aspects of anesthesia, and help you make the necessary decisions for your breast reconstruction surgery.
Recovery and the Postoperative Period
The recovery following breast reconstruction surgery depends on the particular technique used. As with any surgery, however, some welling, bruising and discomfort may result. Surgical drains are often inserted after surgery and are usually removed after 1 week. Dr. Kaufman will instruct you thoroughly on your postoperative regimen and recovery period. You will be encouraged to stay as active as possible at home while maintaining appropriate positioning and posture. Dr. Kaufman recommends avoidance of strenuous physical exercise following breast reconstruction surgery until all healing has occurred. Under our careful guidance, you are encouraged to stay active, eat a healthy diet, and exercise as tolerated.
How will my breasts look and feel after breast reconstruction surgery?
The results of breast reconstruction surgery vary depending on the patient’s individual case and the exact type of procedure used. Dr. Kaufman’s patients are usually very happy with their results and appreciate natural-looking and reasonable results. Reconstructed breasts will not have the same sensation and feel of a real breast. It is important, however, for patients to remember this and to have realistic expectations before undergoing breast reconstruction surgery. Read what they have to say about the benefits of being a patient at Discreet Plastic Surgery.
How much does breast reconstruction surgery cost? Will my healthcare insurance cover the cost?
Breast reconstruction surgery costs vary depending on exactly what technique is used. Breast reconstruction surgery is generally be covered by your healthcare insurance company. This will be outlined in detail during your consultation. At Discreet Plastic Surgery, we can help you with the process of dealing with your healthcare insurance company to make sure that your surgery is covered and that all your financial obligations are met.