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After breast cancer and a mastectomy or lumpectomy, a woman may feel self-conscious. Sometimes her clothes no longer fit properly, and she won’t feel like herself. Breast reconstruction after cancer surgery can help. It involves multiple stages of surgery where the overlying skin is stretched and prepared for a breast implant. Reconstructive breast surgery also typically involves nipple reconstruction and fat grafting from liposuction to further enhance the shape of the breasts.
How is breast reconstruction surgery performed?
There are multiple kinds of breast reconstruction. In the implant-based reconstructive method, an inflatable tissue expander is placed at the time of the mastectomy. Shortly after surgery, the skin is expanded at regular 2-3 week intervals. This allows the skin to stretch and accommodate a breast implant. Skin expansion is needed because, during the mastectomy, the breast surgeon will need to remove your breast tissue and skin. As a result, there may not be enough tissue to shape a breast.
After the expansion phase is the implant exchange procedure. In outpatient surgery the breast tissue expander is removed and replaced with a breast implant. At this time, we may perform fat grafting to smoothen contours and create a natural look. Some women who have had a lumpectomy and radiation develop contour and shape abnormalities. Fat grafting can restore volume and shape in the radiated breast.
Once the breast implants settle into their new position about 3 months later, nipple reconstruction is an option. This procedure involves using your own tissues, or you could choose to have a 3-dimensional nipple tattoo done. You may choose not to have a nipple reconstruction at all. This decision is up to you. We provide you with all the necessary information to make the decision that best suits your needs.
Dr. Tannan also performs flap surgeries for breast reconstruction in select patients. This might be an optimal approach if you have a history of radiation prior to undertaking breast reconstruction. Flap reconstruction involves moving tissue from one part of the body to another to shape the breast. Often a breast implant is used in this procedure as well.
In cases where breast surgery is performed on one breast, it can be difficult to find bras or feel symmetric with one mature breast and one reconstructed breast. We have plastic surgery options designed to achieve symmetry in both breasts. These include breast lift surgery, breast augmentation surgery, fat grafting surgery, breast reduction surgery or a combination of those.
Is breast reconstruction right for me?
Breast reconstruction is a very personal decision. It is important to be fully informed about the options and the pros and cons of each option. Dr. Tannan has extensive experience in breast reconstruction surgery after standard mastectomy, skin-sparing mastectomy, nipple-sparing mastectomy and lumpectomy. In addition to her clinical experience, she also has extensive research experience in this field. The initial consultation gives us an opportunity to understand your needs and share our unique perspective with you. We walk you through the entire process so you are empowered to make the right choice for you and your body.
How much does breast reconstruction cost?
To answer the question of price, we built a helpful guide called the Plastic Surgery Cost Calculator. Using the cost calculator, you can quickly find the typical cost for breast reconstruction, as well as other aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures.
What is the recovery like after breast reconstruction?
The recovery after the first stage of breast reconstruction, which usually occurs at the same time as the mastectomy, is typically 3-6 weeks. We advise that you take off 3-4 weeks from work after the mastectomy. The expansion process starts at around 3 weeks, and then every 2-3 weeks after that. Then 3-6 months later we do the implant exchange to trade out the expander for the breast implant. This is outpatient surgery and you can be active as early as 1-2 weeks after, although we suggest you take it easy for 3-4 weeks.
Learn more about recovery from breast reconstruction with our helpful resource, the Plastic Surgery Recovery Calculator. Breast reconstruction is a journey, and it would be our privilege to guide you as you walk this path.