What is Breast Reconstruction?
Through breast reconstruction, surgeons rebuild a natural looking breast for women who’ve had their breast removed due to breast cancer. The procedure was developed to simulate the appearance, shape, and size of a natural breast and improve the confidence and quality of life for breast cancer survivors. Breast reconstruction can remarkably improve a woman’s physical appearance and emotional well-being, but patients should also understand the limitations of the procedure and have realistic expectations about their results. The procedure will leave visible scars along the breast and donor site, and the newly reconstructed breast will look and feel differently and have different sensations than the breast that was removed.
Benefits of Breast Reconstruction
Deciding to undergo breast reconstruction is a very personal choice for women who’ve battled breast cancer. Breast reconstruction is an equally important choice for women who’ve lost a breast to trauma or other medical conditions. After losing one or both breasts, many women feel that a major part of their femininity has been taken away from them, and the removed breast can serve as a constant reminder of their battle with breast cancer.
With breast reconstruction, women who have lost a breast can enjoy the appearance of a full bosom and feel whole once again. The major achievements being made in breast cancer research enables surgeons to develop and use advanced reconstruction techniques and create more realistic-looking breasts that allow survivors to feel more confident with their appearance.
When Is The Right Time For Breast Reconstruction?
Once you choose to have breast reconstruction, deciding when you’ll undergo the procedure is the second most important decision you have to make. At Birmingham Plastic Surgery, patients can decide to delay their breast reconstruction procedure or choose to have it performed at the time of their mastectomy. We typically recommend immediate breast reconstruction to avoid subsequent surgeries and recovery periods and mitigate the emotional impact of losing one or both breasts.
The Breast Reconstruction Procedure
Patients have several options for their breast reconstruction procedure, but the ideal approach depends on their individual anatomy, desired outcome, and Dr. Karaca’s recommendation. Dr. Karaca can reconstruct a woman’s breasts in one of two ways, with implants or flaps; most patients choose the implant technique.
When a patient opts to have her breast reconstructed with implants, the doctor places a tissue expander where the natural breast was removed and fills the expander with a saline solution. This expansion process creates a pocket for the implant and simulates a shape similar to the natural breast mound. Once the skin and muscle have stretched enough to cover the implant, the implant is inserted behind the pectoral muscle, similar to a breast augmentation. This technique leaves the patient with visible scars, but they tend to fade significantly over time.
During flap reconstruction, the breast is rebuilt by transplanting live tissue from another area of the patient’s body, usually from the abdomen (TRAM Flap), the back (Latissimus Dorsi Flap) and/or buttocks (Gluteal Flap). The breast mound is created from the onset, so there is no need to stretch the skin with a tissue expander over time. Flap reconstruction is more complex and timely than implant reconstruction, and subsequent procedures to reconstruct the nipple, shape the new breast and lift or reduce the contralateral breast are common.
What Are Advantages Of Flap Reconstruction?
Flap reconstruction offers the most advanced approach to breast reconstruction. Because this method uses the live tissue, the patient’s body does not reject the tissue, so the rate of complications is decreased significantly. Additionally, the newly formed breast has a feel and density that’s similar to a natural breast, and it lasts for the patient’s lifetime.
How Is The Nipple Reconstructed?
After the breast mound has successfully been recreated, patients can choose to reconstruct the nipple and areola. The newly constructed breast mound must settle before planning of the nipple and areola reconstruction can take place. Dr. Karaca reconstructs nipples with local tissue from the patient, and medical tattoos are used to darken the areola if necessary.
Breast Reconstruction Recovery
Regardless of which type of reconstruction you undergo, bandages or dressings will be applied to your incisions, and a drainage tube will be placed under the skin to remove excess blood following surgery. The bandages will be removed within three days, and the doctor will remove the drainage tube within one to two weeks.
Breast reconstruction is one of the most invasive breast operations, and recovery is often physically exhausting and discomforting for patients. Discomfort at the surgical sites should subside, and your energy levels should improve within a few days. Patients can resume normal activities after several weeks, but they should continue their stretching exercises as prescribed by the doctor. Visible scarring will continue to fade over time.