Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that restores shape and fullness to a breast that has been removed for medical reasons. The most common reason is breast cancer, however, more women are now opting to have both breasts removed for prophylactic reasons (such as high family risk or cancer gene positive), in order to ease their fears of developing cancer in the future.
There are two basic categories of breast reconstruction: Implant reconstruction or “own tissue” reconstruction. All types of breast reconstruction are covered by your insurance company, including any procedures to the unaffected breast to restore balance and beauty.
Implant reconstruction uses prosthetic breast implants to reshape the breasts. First, a tissue expander is placed under the chest skin and muscle. A tissue expander is like a balloon that is slowly (over several weeks) filled with saline until the desired size and fullness are achieved. Once this is accomplished, the tissue expander is removed and a silicone gel implant is placed in the pocket created by the tissue expander. This procedure can be done at the same time as your mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or a period of time after your mastectomy (delayed reconstruction). This is agreed upon and arranged prior to the mastectomy in conjunction with you, your family and your general surgeon.
New breast implants are finally available in the U.S! After years of studies and evaluation, the FDA has approved the use of silicone highly cohesive implants, called “gummy bears,” for use in breast reconstruction and augmentation. These new implants will provide a nicer shape, with less chance of rippling and contracture. While not appropriate for every patient, we are excited to have these new implants available, and will discuss this with you during your complete consultation.
A second option for breast reconstruction following mastectomy is called, autologous tissue “or own tissue” transfer. This involves moving muscle, fat, and skin from a separate location back into the area from which the breast was removed in order to restore breast fullness. There are several muscles that can be used to achieve this type of reconstruction. Most commonly, your back muscle (Latissimus) or your belly muscle (Rectus) is used for this purpose. Some women may not qualify for this type of procedure depending on their body shape, medical condition, or smoking history. This more extensive operation is associated with a longer recovery and convalescence time, but may be ideal for some women. All of this information will be reviewed during a thorough discussion with your surgeon.
Breast reconstruction of any type will not recreate the exact look and feel of your natural breast. However, the contour of your new breast may restore a silhouette similar to what you had before or may even be larger and firmer than your original breasts. Get all the information you need to know about breast reconstruction. Find out more, click here: Breast Reconstruction.org.
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