Reconstruction After Breast Cancer — Making an Informed Decision
October 02, 2017
Submitted by Twin City Plastic Surgery
Pink ribbons are everywhere in October when we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but women are diagnosed with breast cancer all year round. In fact, the National Cancer Institute estimates that the number of breast cancer cases will likely increase by 50 percent in the next 15 years. There are two reasons for this. First is that the population is aging. As women are living longer, their risk for developing cancer grows. Second is increased screening which can detect cancer in its earliest stages. However, even though much is known about breast cancer and its treatment, most women are not aware of their reconstruction options after mastectomy.
Choosing breast reconstruction
When it comes to breast reconstruction, the choices that are right for one woman won't necessarily be right for another. That's because the long-term prospects of living without a breast or part of a breast affect every woman differently.
After a mastectomy, some women choose to wear external breast forms or pads, and some women make no attempt to alter their appearance. Many others, however, will choose breast reconstruction, using either breast implants or their own tissue. Improvements in plastic surgery techniques offer better results today than ever before and make breast reconstruction an option for most women facing a mastectomy.
What is breast reconstruction?
Reconstructive plastic surgery for breast cancer is performed to replace skin, breast tissue, and the nipple removed during a mastectomy. The amount of missing tissue varies with each mastectomy. Factors contributing to the amount of tissue removed include the width, size, and location of the original tumor and its proximity to the axilla, where the lymph glands are removed. The ultimate goal of reconstruction is to restore symmetry between the two breasts. This can be done systematically at the time of the mastectomy or in a delayed procedure at a later date.
Why consider breast reconstruction?
Restoring the breast is not considered cosmetic surgery, but is considered to be part of the treatment of the disease. The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act mandates that insurers provide coverage for breast reconstruction following mastectomy surgery. Also, insurance typically pays for symmetrical procedures to the “non-cancer” breast as well.
Breast reconstruction not only changes one’s physical appearance, but has psychological benefits as well. Most women find that they feel better about themselves and their body when they can permanently regain their breast shape, thus promoting a sense of wellness for themselves and their families.
Questions to ask about breast reconstruction
Making an informed decision about breast reconstruction is vital to your wellbeing. When working through your reconstruction options, there are many questions that need to be answered, including the following:
- Which type of surgery would give me the best results? What are the disadvantages/advantages of implants versus using my own tissue?
- When can my reconstruction begin?
- How many surgeries will I need?
- What are the risks at the time of surgery? Later?
- Will I have scars? Where? What will they look like?
- If tissue from another part of my body is used, will there be any permanent changes where the tissue was removed?
- What activities should I avoid? When can I return to my normal activities?
Breast reconstruction is rarely an emergency, and sometimes coping with the cancer is about all a person can handle. It’s vitally important to consider all the available reconstruction options before the surgery, evaluate the benefits and risks of various reconstruction techniques and procedures, allow time for thoughtful contemplation, and then you can be assured that you are making the best decision for your personal situation.
The board-certified plastic surgeons at Twin City Plastic Surgery bring you the latest procedures and newest technologies, along with the attentive care and comfort you deserve. For more information on any procedure, you may contact Dr. Laura Randolph — 309-664-6222, Dr. Chad Tattini — 309-664-1007, or Dr. Paige Holt — 309-664-4444 at Twin City Plastic Surgery or www.twincityplasticsurgery.com. Their office is located at 2502 E. Empire in Bloomington.
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