Breast Reconstruction Tips

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How do I know if breast reconstruction surgery is a good option for me?

Deciding to Undergo Breast Reconstruction Surgery

For women who undergo a mastectomy and have a substantial amount of breast tissue or for women who lose a significant amount of breast tissue in an accident, deciding whether or not to undergo breast reconstruction surgery is one of the very important decisions they face. In most mastectomy cases, as long as it is believed the mastectomy has removed all of the cancerous cells, it is usually safe for the patient to undergo a breast reconstruction surgery. However, it is a matter of personal preference for the patient to decide whether or not to undergo this additional procedure.

Some patients are adamant about having a breast reconstruction surgery for a number of different reasons. They may feel as though the mastectomy has left them incomplete or unattractive and they seek out a reconstructive surgery to regain their self confidence. Patients may also be embarrassed about the lack of breast tissue and may wish to have the breast surgically reconstructed to avoid these feelings. Still other patients may wish to undergo a reconstructive breast surgery as a way of putting the battle with cancer or the accident behind them. All of these reasons are valid as are any other reasons which help the patient to feel confident and self assured.

Still other patients may opt to forgo a breast reconstruction surgery after a mastectomy. Some patients may feel as though the additional procedure is not necessary because clothing such as specially designed bras containing padded inserts can be used to mask the lack of natural breast tissue. Others may choose to skip the reconstruction surgery because they feel as though their appearance is a symbol of overcoming the disease. Again, any and all reasons for opting not to have breast reconstruction surgery are valid.

What type of recovery is required for breast reconstruction surgery?

Recovering After Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is not a simple procedure and as a result recovery from this procedure is not extremely easy. A hospital stay may be required after a breast reconstruction procedure and may be approximately 2-5 days depending on the complexity of the procedure as well as other factors such as the strength of the patient. During the first week or two after the procedure the patient will likely experience some pain, discomfort, swelling and bruising. However, this pain will likely be manageable with prescribed medications. The patient will also require a drain to allow excess fluid to drain away from the procedure site but these drains will likely be removed after approximately 1.5 weeks. Stitches are also usually removed after approximately 1.5 weeks.

Breast reconstruction patients may feel well enough to engage in mild exercise such as brief walks after a week or two but should follow the surgeon's advice regarding more strenuous activities, overhead lifting or sexual activities. In most cases these activities will be prohibited for 3-6 weeks. After approximately six weeks most breast reconstruction patients will be fully recovered although in some cases swelling may persist for a longer period of time.

When can a patient have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy?

Having Breast Reconstruction after a Mastectomy

A mastectomy is a procedure where the breast tissue is removed in one or both of the breasts. This procedure is common in breast cancer patients where the breast tissue is infected with cancer cells. Many mastectomy patients opt to have a breast reconstruction surgery after the mastectomy to recreate the breast artificially.

A breast reconstruction after a mastectomy will be very similar to a breast augmentation procedure where a saline or silicone implant is used to recreate the appearance of breast tissue. In many cases the procedure is performed in stages where the first stage involves implanting the shell and gradually increasing the amount of filler material in the shell. This may be done over the course of several weeks or even months. Some types of shells may be left in as permanent implants while others will have to be removed once they reach the desired capacity and replaced with a more permanent implant.

What is breast reconstruction?

Common Scenarios Requiring Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is essentially a surgical procedure in which a breast which has been removed or damaged is reconstructed. Breast reconstruction is common in breast cancer patients who require a mastectomy to eliminate the cancer cells. Additionally, breast reconstruction may be useful in the result of serious accidents which result in a distortion of the breasts.

A mastectomy may be necessary in one or both breasts of cancer patients. This procedure involves the removal of the breast tissue affected by cancer. In many cases the breast reconstruction surgery may take place at the same time as the mastectomy. However, in some cases the patient may not be able to have the breast reconstruction until a later date. This is common when there are medical conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure which make the reconstruction surgery risky. Additionally, patients may opt to wait to have the reconstructive procedure to focus exclusively on the cancer treatment first before making decisions regarding breast reconstruction surgery.

Accident victims as well as crime victims may also require breast reconstruction surgery. Any type of accident or crime which results in significant damage to the breast tissue may make a woman a candidate for breast reconstruction surgery. In these cases the surgeon will examine the tissue carefully to assess the need for reconstruction as well as the potential for the surgery to be successful. Based on this information the patient can make an informed decision regarding whether or not to undergo the procedure.

When is breast reconstruction not recommended?

When Breast Reconstruction is Not Recommended

Breast reconstruction is an excellent operation for many patients who have undergone a mastectomy or have been in a traumatic accident which resulted in the loss of a significant amount of breast tissue but for some patients breast reconstruction is not recommended. Specifically cancer patients who do not have all of the cancerous cells removed during the mastectomy are not ideal candidates for breast reconstruction. In these cases it may be necessary to complete cancer treatments before attempting a breast reconstruction.

Additionally, patients who are in poor health may not be ideal candidates for breast reconstruction. This may include patients suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity. Additionally, cigarette smoking may make a patient an unlikely candidate for breast reconstruction. In these cases the patient may have to wait until the other health concerns are alleviated before undergoing surgery for reconstruction of the breasts.

How do I find a qualified breast reconstruction surgeon?

Finding a Qualified Breast Reconstruction Surgeon

Selecting a qualified breast reconstruction surgeon is very important because it can have a significant impact on the outcome of the procedure. The following checklist will help a patient to determine whether or not a particular breast reconstruction plastic surgeon is a good candidate to perform the procedure:

  • Are you a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons? Surgeons who are members of this society are certified to perform plastic surgery, perform procedures in accredited medical facilities, adhere to a strict code of ethics and participate in continuing education programs. It also assures the surgeon has had at least five years of medical training and two years of training specifically in plastic surgery.
  • Can you provide before and after pictures of previous breast reconstruction patients? These photos will provide telling evidence of the surgeon's skill level.
  • How many breast reconstruction surgeries have you performed in the past year? This question will give the patient a good indication of the level of experience the surgeon has with this type of procedure. Some plastic surgeons may specialize in breast reconstruction surgeries and perform many of these operations each year while others may have fairly limited experience with the procedure.
  • Finally, the patient should ask any questions which she may have about the procedure and the recovery period. In evaluating these answers for accuracy and honesty the patient will be able to gauge whether or not she feels as though she can trust the surgeon and feels comfortable with the surgeon. This is important because a patient who trusts and is comfortable with the surgeon is more likely to be honest about her concerns about the procedure.

What is bilateral breast reconstruction?

Understanding Bilateral Breast Reconstruction

Simply stated bilateral breast reconstruction involves the reconstruction of both of the breasts. This may be necessary in the case of cancer patients who required the removal of breast tissue in both breasts. When a mastectomy is performed on both of the breasts the patient may opt for a bilateral breast reconstruction surgery to replace the breast tissue which was removed and to create a symmetrical appearance.

When a bilateral breast reconstruction is required the reconstruction surgeries may occur simultaneously or at separate times depending on the needs of the patient as well as the preferences of the surgeon. Additionally, the bilateral breast reconstruction may be performed in conjunction with the mastectomy or may be performed in a separate procedure.

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