If you’ve had a mastectomy because of breast cancer, you may choose to have reconstructive plastic surgery. It can restore symmetry between the two breasts by replacing skin, breast tissue, and the removed nipple.
The amount of reconstruction will depend on the mastectomy, and the width, size, and location of the removed tumor.
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...
Breast reconstruction is an option for most women facing a mastectomy. The long-term prospects of living without a breast or part of a breast affects every woman differently. The choice for one woman won't necessarily be right for another. It’s a personal decision, and often not easy to make.
You can choose to skip reconstruction. You may wear external breast forms or pads, or make no attempt to change your appearance.
Improvements in plastic surgery mean better results now than ever before. You may have reconstruction using either your own tissue or breast implants.
Breast reconstruction changes your appearance, but it can have psychological benefits as well. It can promote a sense of wellness for you and your family.
Restoring the breast isn’t considered cosmetic surgery. Operations performed to restore anatomy and symmetry are considered reconstructive surgery. Since it’s considered part of the treatment of a disease, the law says insurance providers must provide coverage.
When Should Breast Reconstruction Be Performed?
Timing of reconstructive surgery is based on your desires, medical conditions, and cancer treatment. You can choose to have it done during the same operation to remove the breast, or months or years after a mastectomy. If you have started any chemotherapy or radiation treatments, reconstruction is usually postponed until you complete those treatments. Your surgeon can help you decide the right timing for you.
What Are the Different Reconstruction Options?
Your doctor will consider your wants and needs, medical condition, and previous surgery when choosing between reconstruction using breast implants or flaps of tissue moved from other parts of your body. Talk with your doctor about the options.
One procedure to consider is nipple reconstruction. Usually, the nipple and areola (the dark area around the nipple) are removed during the mastectomy to lower the chance of cancer returning.