Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Font Size

    Breast Reconstruction Without Implants

    If you’ve had a mastectomy and want breast reconstruction, you may be able to use your own body tissue, rather than implants.

    When you use your own tissue, it’s commonly called a flap procedure. It moves healthy tissue from one area of the body to the chest. Talk with your doctor to find out if this is an option for you.

    Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

    Me and the Girls: Mary Manasco

    WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called "Me & the Girls," explores the personal stories of nine women who faced breast cancer. Breast cancer survivor Mary Manasco, 59, lives in Jackson, Miss. In May 2008, a routine mammogram showed a suspicious spot in Manasco's right breast, which led to another mammogram, a biopsy, and a diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer. The diagnosis upset...

    Read the Me and the Girls: Mary Manasco article > >

    What Are the Benefits of Breast Reconstruction Without Implants?

    The shape, feel, and contour of a breast reconstructed from a woman's own tissue more closely resembles the characteristics of a natural breast.

    What Are the Challenges?

    Flap surgery is more involved than implant surgery. And, like all major surgeries, you could have complications, such as bleeding, infection, or poor healing.

    Flap procedures require a longer hospital stay than implant surgery; on average 5 to 6 days versus 1 or 2 days for an implant.

    It leaves scars in the area the tissue is taken from, but they fade over time.

    Where Does the Tissue Come From?

    The most common flap procedure uses muscle and skin taken from the area below your belly button and above your pubic bone. Muscle, skin, and fat are moved from your belly to your chest. After the flap of tissue is transferred, the surgeon shapes it into the contour of a breast.

    If taking tissue from your stomach isn’t right for you, the surgeon may use tissue from your back -- or even your bottom -- to make the new breast.

    How Is the Flap Procedure Done?

    There are two basic methods for the reconstruction:

    Pedicle or tunneling procedure. With this technique, the section of tissue being moved stays attached to its blood supply. The flap has a better chance of surviving because the blood supply remains intact, but the breast may not look the way you want.

    Free-flap procedure. With this technique, the tissue being moved is disconnected from its blood supply and then reconnected to vessels in its new location using microsurgical techniques. This is a more complicated procedure. The biggest risk is that the blood vessels may get clogged and the flap might die. The benefit is that the reconstruction looks more like a natural breast.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Woman getting mammogram
    Screening Tests for Women
    serious woman
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    what is your cancer risk
    breast cancer survivors