Many people think of plastic surgery as purely cosmetic, but there’s a lot more to this surgical specialty. Plastic surgeons often do reconstructive procedures that can rebuild body parts after an injury or illness.
What is breast reconstruction after breast surgery?
Women who have had a mastectomy (breast removal) or lumpectomy due to breast cancer or another type of trauma to the breast may be interested in having one or both breasts reconstructed. This surgical procedure can alter the size, shape, appearance, and symmetry of the breasts, and in many cases, can help women feel more comfortable and confident after the loss of a breast or portion of the breast.
For women who need reconstruction for only one breast, they may also choose to have a breast lift, breast augmentation, or breast reduction of the second breast, in order to create a more even appearance.
Breast reconstruction surgery is often done in conjunction with a mastectomy or lumpectomy. This way there is only one surgery and recovery vs. having to recover from breast cancer surgery and then going back to have the reconstruction. Your doctor will help you consider your options and the pros and cons of each. He or she will also explore any other considerations, such as whether you will still be receiving radiation therapy, in which case, it may be advisable to postpone breast reconstruction.
Types of breast reconstruction procedures
The two types of breast reconstruction are implant or flap, or some combination of the two. For implant, the surgeon uses an "expander" positioned just beneath the chest wall muscle. Saline (salt water) is injected into the expander to gently "grow" the breast to the desired size. Flap, or autologous reconstruction, uses skin, muscle, and fat from your own belly, back or buttocks, to "build" a new breast.
Types of autologous tissue reconstruction include:
- DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) and SEIA (superficial inferior epigastric artery) flap reconstruction, using tissue from the lower abdominal area
- Gluteal flap reconstruction, using tissue from the buttocks
- TUG (transverse upper gracilis) flap reconstruction, using tissue from the inner portion of the upper thigh
At Main Line Health we specialize in all aspects of autologous tissue reconstruction as well as implant-based reconstruction.
What to expect from breast reconstruction surgery
You will need plenty of time to rest and recover after breast reconstructive surgery. For some weeks after surgery, you may also have surgical drains (tubes) in your body to help remove fluid from the area and help prevent infection. Swelling of the breast area is common and may last for several months.
Your doctor will discuss recommendations for limited activity while you continue to heal. During this time, you may also experience some anxiety or depression. This is a natural response to the physical trauma of having a breast surgically removed and replaced. Your doctor will be able to point you to the many resources available to help you cope with this time in your life.
At Main Line Health we offer comprehensive and compassionate breast care at all four of our acute care hospitals as well as at health center locations throughout the suburbs of Philadelphia.
From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.