Following a mastectomy, many patients feel a severe emotional loss. As a result, reconstructing the breast is a major concern. Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy or at a later date. There are numerous options for different types of procedures, so it is possible to find a method of treatment that is ideal for any situation.
The goal of breast reconstruction is to restore a natural look and feel to the breasts. In many cases, your own tissue is used to reconstruct a new breast. Following a mastectomy, a technique known as tissue expansion is often a good option. This technique relies on a balloon-like device that is used to stretch the tissues remaining on the chest wall. This creates a pocket where an implant is later inserted.
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How is a Breast Reconstruction Performed?
The exact procedure for breast reconstruction varies depending on the type of surgery being performed. Depending on the technique, the procedure typically takes anywhere from one to five hours. The operation is performed in a hospital under general anesthesia. For most patients, it is necessary to spend a day or two in the hospital following the procedure. If tissue expansion is performed, you will need to see your surgeon numerous times to slowly fill the tissue expander over time before the reconstruction will be complete. In addition to reconstructing the breast, your surgeon can also reconstruct a nipple and areola.
Am I a Candidate for Breast Reconstruction?
If you have had a mastectomy because of cancer you may be a candidate for breast reconstruction. In all breast cancer related cases, health insurance covers the cost. You need to be healthy enough to undergo surgery without major complications. Let your doctor know if you have any conditions that could cause increased bleeding or delayed healing. Also, tell your surgeon about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins. Good candidates realize that breast reconstruction has limitations. Though the procedure is intended to provide the most natural looking result possible, patients are very happy with the results.
Recovery from Breast Reconstruction
Following breast reconstruction surgery, will wear a bra as usual. A drainage typically is put in place to allow fluids to drain. Mild bruising, some swelling and discomfort are common, but your surgeon will give you medications to manage any discomfort. You will also be given detailed aftercare instructions that you must follow carefully to prevent infection and ensure proper healing. Strenuous physical activity may need to be avoided for up to three months, and you may need a few weeks off of work depending on the technique used and your particular occupation.