If You Are Considering Breast Reconstruction Dr. Bond Can Help
Reconstruction of a breast that has been removed due to cancer or other disease is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available today. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy), so the patient wakes up with a breast mound already in place, having been spared the experience of seeing herself with no breast at all.
But bear in mind, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction is not a simple procedure. There are often many options to consider as you and Dr. Sheila Bond explore what’s best for you.
This information will give you a basic understanding of the procedure — when it’s appropriate, how it’s done, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on your individual circumstances. Please be sure to ask Dr. Bond if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.
The Best Candidates for Breast Reconstruction
Most mastectomy patients are medically appropriate for reconstruction, many at the same time that the breast is removed. The best candidates, however, are women whose cancer, as far as can be determined, seems to have been eliminated by mastectomy.
Still, there are legitimate reasons to wait. Many women aren’t comfortable weighing all the options while they’re struggling to cope with a diagnosis of cancer. Others simply don’t want to have any more surgery than is absolutely necessary. Some patients may be advised by their surgeons to wait, particularly if the breast is being rebuilt in a more complicated procedure using flaps of skin and underlying tissue. Women with other health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or smoking, may also be advised to wait.
In any case, being informed of your reconstruction options before surgery can help you prepare for a mastectomy with a more positive outlook for the future.
Planning Your Reconstructive Surgery
You can begin talking about reconstruction as soon as you’re diagnosed with cancer. Ideally, you’ll want your breast surgeon and your plastic surgeon to work together to develop a strategy that will put you in the best possible condition for reconstruction.
After evaluating your health, Dr. Bond will explain which reconstructive options are most appropriate for your age, health, anatomy, tissues, and goals. Be sure to discuss your expectations frankly with your surgeon. She will be equally frank with you, describing your options and the risks and limitations of each. Post-mastectomy reconstruction can improve your appearance and renew your self-confidence — but keep in mind that the desired result is improvement, not perfection.
Dr. Bond or her staff will also explain the anesthesia she will use, the facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs. In most cases, health insurance policies will cover most or all of the cost of post-mastectomy reconstruction. Check your policy to make sure you’re covered and to see if there are any limitations on what types of reconstruction are covered.
The most common technique uses tissue expansion, a two-stage process in which an implant shaped silicone rubber balloon-like tissue expander is inserted under the skin and chest muscle. Saline is gradually injected into the tissue expander to fill it over a period of weeks or months. This process allows the skin on the chest to be stretched over the expander to create a breast mound, at which time a breast implant can be permanently placed, replacing the temporary expander.
Once the breast mound is created, the final procedure is the formation of the nipple in which an areola is tattooed onto the reconstructed breast to best match the opposite breast.
The reconstructed breast will have a normal appearance and often youthful shape. Dr. Sheila Bond will often perform surgery to reduce, enlarge or lift the opposite breast to make the breasts symmetric. The overall health of the patient is taken into consideration at all times.
Our goal is not only to create a new breast, but to restore the woman’s self image and quality of life.
What is Flap Reconstruction?
An alternative approach to implant reconstruction involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body, such as the back, abdomen, or buttocks.
In one type of flap surgery, the tissue remains attached to its original site, retaining its blood supply. The flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle with its blood supply, are tunneled beneath the skin to the chest, creating a pocket for an implant or, in some cases, creating the breast mound itself, without need for an implant.
Another flap technique uses tissue that is surgically removed from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks and then transplanted to the chest by reconnecting the blood vessels to new ones in that region. This procedure requires the skills of a plastic surgeon who is experienced in microvascular surgery as well.
Regardless of whether the tissue is tunneled beneath the skin on a pedicle or transplanted to the chest as a microvascular flap, this type of surgery is more complex than skin expansion. Scars will be left at both the tissue donor site and at the reconstructed breast, and recovery will take longer than with an implant. On the other hand, when the breast is reconstructed entirely with your own tissue, the results are generally more natural and there are no concerns about a silicone implant. In some cases, you may have the added benefit of a improved abdominal contour.
Most breast reconstruction involves a series of procedures that occur over time. Usually, the initial reconstructive operation is the most complex. Follow-up surgery may be required to replace a tissue expander with an implant or to reconstruct the nipple and the areola. Many surgeons recommend an additional operation to enlarge, reduce, or lift the natural breast to match the reconstructed breast. But keep in mind, this procedure may leave scars on an otherwise normal breast and may not be covered by insurance.
After Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
You are likely to feel tired and sore for a week or two after reconstruction. Most of your discomfort can be controlled by medication prescribed by your doctor.
Depending on the extent of your surgery, you’ll probably be released from the hospital in two to five days. Many reconstruction options require a surgical drain to remove excess fluids from surgical sites immediately following the operation, but these are removed within the first week or two after surgery. Most stitches are removed in a week to 10 days.
Getting Back to Normal
It may take you up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction or from a flap reconstruction alone. If implants are used without flaps and reconstruction is done apart from the mastectomy, your recovery time may be less.
Reconstruction cannot restore normal sensation to your breast, but in time, some feeling may return. Most scars will fade substantially over time, though it may take as long as one to two years, but they’ll never disappear entirely. The better the quality of your overall reconstruction, the less distracting you’ll find those scars.
Follow Dr. Bond’s advice on when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities. As a general rule, you’ll want to refrain from any overhead lifting, strenuous sports, and sexual activity for three to six weeks following reconstruction.
Your New Look
Chances are your reconstructed breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your natural breast. It may not have the same contour as your breast before mastectomy, nor will it exactly match your opposite breast. But these differences will be apparent only to you. For most mastectomy patients, breast reconstruction dramatically improves their appearance and quality of life following surgery.
This is a major decision but scheduling an appointment with Dr. Sheila Bond will assist you in determining if this is the best decision for you. We invite you to contact us online or call 973-509-0007 today.
Visit our plastic / cosmetic surgery office located in Montclair, New Jersey (NJ). We serve patients from the following area, such as Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Sussex counties, as well as Jersey City, Newark, NJ and all surrounding areas including New York (NY). We look forward to meeting you in person.
PATIENT REFERRAL BONUS
Refer a friend and receive a $500 credit towards your future surgery procedure. Click here for more information.
Disclaimer: The photographs on these pages illustrate typical results of some cosmetic surgery procedures and may contain some nudity. Viewer discretion is advised. In providing the photos and statements on this web site, NewJerseyLipoBodySurgeon.com does not state or imply any guarantee.