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Cosmetic Procedures: Breast Reconstruction Without Implants

Follow-up Care continued...

Mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery will leave areas of numbness where the surgery was performed. Instead of feeling pain where the tissue was taken, a patient may feel numbness and tightness. The same is true of the reconstruction site. In time, some feeling may return in your breasts. Most scars will fade over time.

The shape of your reconstructed breast will gradually improve over the months following the reconstruction.

You'll be asked to return for regular checkups at first. If you have a temporary expander implanted, it will be expanded with saline on average once a week until the desired size is obtained (usually within six to ten office visits).

After breast reconstruction, you should continue to examine your breasts every month. You should continue to have regular screening exams, such as regular mammograms.

Breast reconstruction has no bearing on cancer recurrence or surveillance, and generally does not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. A recurrence can still be treated by any of the standard treatment methods, which include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In addition, reconstruction rarely, if at all, hides or obscures a local recurrence.

What Side Effects Can I Expect?

  • Infection at the surgery site. As with any surgery, infection is a risk. Typically, an antibiotic will get rid of the infection.
  • Pain and discomfort. Your doctor will advise you on a pain relief medication. The level of pain and discomfort will vary from person to person.
  • Itching. As the wound heals, you will experience itching. No matter how much the area may itch, you should avoid scratching it. Your doctor can recommend an ointment or cream to use at the site to reduce this effect.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations. You may experience these sensations because the nerves have been affected. This side effect can last up to 12 months after surgery.
  • Fluid collection under the wound. Sometimes, one of two types of fluid may collect under the wound: seroma (fluid under flap) or hematoma (blood). This may happen even after your drainage tubes are removed several days after the operation. If the fluid collection is small, it may go away by itself. However, if the fluid collection is large, your surgeon may have to drain the site using a needle and syringe.

After Surgery, Contact Your Doctor Immediately Should You Experience Any of the Following:

  • A fever above 100 degrees
  • Fluid leaking from incision sites
  • Any change in color in the breast or scar area

Does Insurance Cover Breast Reconstruction Without Implants?

Reconstructing the breast is not considered a cosmetic procedure. Rather, it's part of the treatment for a disease and the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act mandates that insurers provide coverage for breast reconstruction.

However, each carrier will vary in its coverage, so it's important that you familiarize yourself with the details of your plan.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD on July 08, 2012

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