The loss of a breast, usually due to mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery, can be traumatic, causing a woman to feel self-conscious about her appearance. At our cosmetic surgery practice in Rochester, near Buffalo and Syracuse, each plastic surgeon at our practice is adept at using the latest techniques and technology to help a woman restore her appearance and self-confidence. With advanced breast reconstruction technology, we can construct a breast that is very similar in appearance to a natural breast.
Breast reconstruction is a complex operation, with many different options to consider. At your consultation at our offices, conveniently located in Rochester, near Buffalo and Syracuse, your plastic surgeon will help you explore which options best suit your particular circumstances.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure used to replace breasts that have been removed in a mastectomy, or to rebuild breasts that have been deformed by a lumpectomy. Losing one or both breasts can be one of the most difficult emotional aspects of fighting and eventually beating breast cancer, so having this procedure can dramatically improve a woman’s self-confidence moving forward. This procedure is complicated and various methods can be used. They are discussed in detail below.
Would breast reconstruction be right for me?
The decision whether or not to have reconstruction surgery needs to be made long before your mastectomy. Some women don’t like the prospect of having another surgery, and instead opt to wear external breast forms. But for others, this surgery helps them move down the path to full recovery.
These are reasons you may want to consider breast reconstruction with our expert surgeons:
- If you feel reconstruction will make you feel whole again
- If you feel reconstruction will give you back some confidence
- If you feel reconstruction will make you feel more feminine again
- If you worry about symmetry if only one of your breasts is affected
- If you don’t want to be limited in wearing certain necklines or swimwear that you enjoy
Breast Reconstruction Surgery
The Plastic Surgery Group of Rochester offers a variety of breast reconstruction procedures to our patients in the Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse area. A plastic surgeon at our practice will help you decide which of the following would be best suited to your needs:
- Breast implants are essentially flexible silicone shells filled either with “saline,” a salt-water solution, or with silicone. Currently, due to safety concerns, only saline-filled implants are approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Breast implants are usually combined with skin expansion or flap surgery to reconstruct a breast.
- Skin expansion, which provides a pocket of skin for a breast implant, can be performed at our locations in Rochester, near Buffalo and Syracuse. Your plastic surgeon will surgically implant a balloon expander underneath the skin and muscle of your chest. Over the course of several weeks to several months, your plastic surgeon will slowly fill the balloon with a salt-water solution. Once an appropriately sized pocket of skin is created, an operation will be performed to remove the balloon and replace it with a breast implant. The process is finally completed by another procedure that reconstructs the nipple and the areola.
- Flap reconstruction is an alternative to breast reconstruction procedures using skin expansion and a breast implant. The breast is reconstructed using a skin flap made of tissue from other areas of the body. A skin flap is frequently taken from the back, abdomen, or buttocks. There are a number of ways a plastic surgeon can reconstruct a breast using a skin flap. In one method, the flap is tunneled beneath skin to the location where the breast is being reconstructed, remaining attached to its original site. The fat, skin, and muscle of the flap are often enough to create the entire breast mound, though the plastic surgeon may elect to add an implant, if necessary. In another method of flap reconstruction surgery, tissue is entirely separated from its initial location, usually on the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks, and is then re-attached to blood vessels at its new site.
- Medical tattooing can be used to aid in the coloring of a reconstructed nipple and areola.
- Follow-up procedures are often necessary after a breast reconstruction operation. Breast reconstruction operations are frequently complex, involving a progression of procedures that are performed over a period of time, though the first operation is usually the longest and most involved. Follow-up surgery may be necessary at our location in the Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse area so your plastic surgeon can, for example, replace a balloon expander with a breast implant or reconstruct the nipple.
How Soon After Mastectomy can I have reconstructive Breast surgery?
You probably need to begin talking about reconstruction as soon as you’re diagnosed with cancer and it appears as if you may have to have a mastectomy. This allows your breast surgeon and our plastic surgeon to work together toward your best outcome.
Most mastectomy patients can have reconstruction immediately after the breast is removed. They opt to have reconstruction to avoid having to see themselves minus one or both breasts, along with the corresponding scarring. But other patients need time to deal with what just happened; they aren’t ready for a second complicated surgery. In some cases, health issues dictate waiting before reconstruction.
How long does the breast reconstruction process take?
The timeline of this process varies depending on the reconstruction method used. For instance, skin expansion can take up to several months for the balloon expander to create the skin pocket that will hold the implant. Flap reconstruction can be done in a single surgery, but will require follow-up procedures. During your consultation and planning, we can provide you with a more accurate timeframe, depending on your preferences.
recovery After Breast Reconstruction
Your recovery period and difficulty can vary widely due to the variety of methods that can be employed. Hospital stays can run from one to six nights. Patients are generally tired and sore for up to two weeks, with full recovery taking up to six weeks.
When you return home, you will have bandages and elastic supports to allow the newly reconstructed breast to heal properly and without undue stress. There will likely be a drainage tube. A pain pump is effective to reduce the need for narcotic pain relievers. It will likely take up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction.
We’ll give you detailed instructions on what you can and cannot do to impact your incisions and overall healing. As a general rule, you’ll need to refrain from any overhead lifting, strenuous exercise, and any sexual activity for up to six weeks following your surgery.
If you’ve had a single breast removed and reconstructed, it may seem obvious, but your reconstructed breast will not look the same as your original breast. Our surgeons will do everything possible to match the size, shape, symmetry, and other attributes of your remaining breast. To make both breasts similar, we may need to operate on the remaining breast, changing its size or providing a breast lift.
Is breast reconstruction painful?
There will be some pain involved with these procedures, however, it is impossible to give an accurate idea without knowing your unique situation. The first one to two weeks will be where you experience the most pain, but you will have pain medication that will help you through this early recovery. You’ll be able to get pretty much back to normal in a couple of months.
are there risks to reconstructing my breasts after cancer?
This is major surgery, and it involves the risks associated with any surgery: excessive bleeding, poor wound healing, reaction to anesthesia, blood clot formation, fluid accumulation, and infection. These risks will all be discussed during your consultation with one of our board-certified surgeons who are extensively trained to perform this procedure.
Specific to breast reconstruction, these are problems that can occur later in the recovery process:
- The need for follow-up procedures to address problems
- Tissue death in flap procedures
- Problems at the donor site where tissue was taken, such as loss of muscle strength
- Changes in the arm on the side of the reconstructed breast
- Problems with the breast implant, such as leakage, rupture, or capsular contracture
- Asymmetry between your breasts
will I have scars After Reconstructive Breast Surgery?
There will be scarring with any type of reconstruction. With flap procedures, there will be scarring at the donor site as well. Rest assured that our surgeons make every effort to limit the scarring with the placement of the incisions and such. These scars will begin as red in color, but they will fade substantially over time. We take pride in the quality of our breast reconstruction surgeries, and we think they will help you feel as if you’ve turned a corner in your cancer recovery and can get back to a more normal life once again.