Is Breast Reconstruction The Right Choice For You?
August 12, 2021
Learning you have breast cancer, or are at very high risk for developing the disease in the future, is some of the most frightening news a woman may face. In addition to immediate concerns about your health and the best treatment options, come longer-term thoughts about your physical appearance if your treatment includes mastectomy. Will breast reconstruction—surgery to rebuild your breast or breasts—be the right choice for you?
Whatever your age or relationship status, it’s difficult to predict how you will feel about losing a part of your body that has perhaps been significant in defining you as a woman. You may experience sadness, uncertainty, confusion and anger. All are normal reactions and important steps in helping you make decisions about breast reconstruction.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Determine What Comes Next
Decisions about life after mastectomy are extremely personal. There are no right or wrong choices. Fortunately, there are a wide range of options available to help restore your body image.
As you consider breast reconstruction, it’s important to talk with those closest to you and learn as much as you can by consulting with medical professionals and other women who have undergone mastectomy. It is also helpful to ask yourself these three questions:
- How do I feel about having more surgery?
- Will breast reconstruction make me feel whole again?
- Would I be satisfied with my body image without surgery, or solutions like mastectomy bras and breast forms?
If you decide on breast reconstruction, you may have already learned about the main surgical techniques available.
- Implant reconstruction, or non-autologous reconstruction, is usually a two-stage procedure, followed by nipple reconstruction, and involves inserting an expander, filling it with saline to obtain the desired size, and then replacing the expander with an implant that is either saline or silicone.
- Autologous, or "flap" reconstruction, uses tissue from another part of your body, most often the abdomen. It is usually a one-stage (but lengthier) procedure, involving a four- to five-day hospital stay. The result can feel more natural than implant reconstruction.
Each procedure has its own advantages and disadvantages. Speaking with a plastic surgeon can help guide you to the best choice depending on your unique situation. Helping you feel as confident as possible as you move through your breast cancer journey is the goal of all of the many options available to restore your body image after mastectomy. My best advice: Trust yourself—after consultation with your health-care team, family, and friends—to determine what is best for you.