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If you've had a mastectomy to remove breast tissue after a breast cancer diagnosis, you may be wondering about what reconstructive surgery could do for you. Reconstruction can restore your figure and give you a boost of self-confidence. Here's a look at some of the basics of breast reconstruction to help you understand your options.
When Can You Have Breast Reconstruction?
There are three different options for the timing of breast reconstruction. You can talk with your oncologist about your specific situation to see which one would be best for you depending on your diagnosis and recovery.
Immediate - Immediate breast reconstruction starts during the mastectomy surgery itself. It is convenient if you're looking to maintain your body shape throughout your treatments. It's important to note, though, that while the basic reconstruction can be done at the time of the mastectomy, there will likely be some follow-up surgeries to shape the breast to a more natural appearance.
Delayed - A delayed reconstruction procedure doesn't happen until your cancer treatments are completed. That way, your body focuses on your cancer treatments instead of also having to recover from reconstruction. For some patients, the weakened immune system that comes with chemotherapy can make healing a struggle, so waiting is beneficial.
Combination - Combination breast reconstruction is an alternative for those who don't want full reconstruction right away, but don't necessarily want to wait until after treatment, either. If you're not going to have radiation treatment, your surgeon can place a tissue expander in the breast area at the time of the mastectomy. The expander is the key to leaving space for the implant when your treatment is finished. If you'll have radiation, the expander is placed after radiation is finished.
What Kinds of Breast Reconstruction Are Available?
Reconstruction can be done in one of two primary ways. Saline implants are one option. Once the breast tissue is removed, the implant can be placed after you've healed. This type of procedure usually requires the use of an expander to keep the space open for the saline implant after healing. The expander is removed when the implant is put in place.
If you prefer to skip the saline implants and opt for a more natural reconstruction, natural tissue reconstruction is another option. In this type of process, the surgeon will use tissue taken from another area of your body to recreate the breast. In some cases, the tissue is taken from your abdomen area. In other cases, it's taken from your back.
Before you decide on a breast reconstruction procedure, talk with your doctor about the best choice based on your situation.