Today, surviving breast cancer doesn’t have to mean major surgery or disfigurement. Advances in plastic surgery provide many options for breast reconstruction.
Our plastic surgeons work closely with AAMG breast surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists. This means you have a comprehensive team with advanced training in surgical oncology and breast surgery.
If you choose breast reconstruction, the timing of your surgery depends on your situation and preferences. Your team will talk with you about what options are best for you:
- Immediate reconstruction: If you likely will not need radiation therapy to fight your cancer, we may offer reconstruction when you have your mastectomy. (Radiation can hurt the blood supply to healthy cells. This can slow healing and increase infection risk and other complications after surgery.)
- Delayed immediate reconstruction: If we do not know if you will need radiation therapy, we may offer to put in a breast tissue expander during your mastectomy. If you need radiation or other treatment, the expander can stay in place until your treatment is done. After that, we will start to expand your skin to make room for an implant or tissue flap. If you don’t need radiation treatment, we can start expanding your skin right away.
- Delayed reconstruction: Sometimes we do not recommend immediate or delayed immediate reconstruction because of radiation therapy or other medical reasons. However, reconstruction may be an option in the future.
If breast reconstruction is right for you, our team will create a customized plan. We will make sure you have the support you need during your entire journey.
Breast Reconstruction Options
If you choose breast reconstruction surgery, our breast and plastic surgeons work with you to choose the best technique and timing.
Depending on your needs and preferences, your breast reconstruction surgery may include:
- Autologous tissue reconstruction:
- Oncoplastic reconstruction
- Two-staged implant reconstruction with tissue expansion
- Direct-to-implant reconstruction
- Nipple reconstruction
- Nipple and areola tattooing
- Autologous fat grafting
Breast Reconstruction FAQs
Does insurance cover breast reconstruction? Federal laws give everyone access to breast cancer care. But no current laws require access to a plastic surgery consult. Fortunately, those laws may come soon.
All group health plans that cover mastectomy (removal of a breast) also have to cover reconstructive surgery, lymphedema management, a breast prosthesis and other benefits. This includes surgery for the other breast, if it is needed.
What are my options if I don’t want reconstruction? A woman having a small lumpectomy (taking out a tumor that doesn’t affect the rest of the breast) may not benefit from reconstruction. Even a woman who has a total mastectomy might not want reconstructive surgery. If you have a total mastectomy without reconstruction, you could choose to live without the breast, “going flat.” You could also use a breast prosthesis. You can wear it every day or as much as you want. This option is less expensive, complicated and time-consuming than reconstruction. Insurance usually covers a breast prosthesis. Many types and materials are available.
What risks factors should I consider before breast reconstruction surgery? Common risk factors that you may need to address with your doctor before surgery include:
- Previous or future radiation
- High blood pressure
- Connective tissue disorders, such as lupus or scleroderma
- Clotting or bleeding disorders, such as a history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
- Obesity and related conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea and reflux
- Stress and anxiety
- Smoking cessation (We will work with you to help you stop using tobacco.)
What are possible complications of breast reconstruction surgery? Your surgical team will talk to you about any risks associated with your upcoming surgery. The basic risks of any surgery include (but are not limited to): the risks of general anesthesia, bleeding, infection, healing problems and wounds, pain, scars, asymmetry, the need for revisions, total or partial failure of flaps and grafts, and unsatisfactory cosmetic results. No surgeon or other doctor can predict or prevent all complications. But we make every effort to avoid them, identify them and treat them promptly and effectively.