Breast reconstruction surgery is intended to restore the shape and size of the breasts after mastectomy. It is recommended in patients having undergone a mastectomy after cancer-induced chemo or post-chemoprophylaxis. Often confused with breast augmentation, breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is a completely different procedure.
In breast reconstruction, as the breast is surgically removed before the procedure, expanders are applied to the remaining breast tissue before inserting the implants. Apart from implantation, the nipples and the areola are also reconstructed during the procedure. Unlike normal breasts, a patient having undergone breast reconstruction after mastectomy cannot feel any pain or sensation in their reconstructed breasts.
- Clinical practitioners often notice that cancer survivors post-mastectomy go into depression and suffer long-term self-esteem issues.
- In a study conducted with around 419 women under 40 diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers found that most had improved body image post-breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
- Women with reconstructed breasts feel comfortable in tight dresses such as bathing and swimming suits. More importantly, they feel better about their body with mastectomy reconstruction.
- This leads to increased self-esteem, giving them a survival advantage. The reason why people seek breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is needed to increase their overall quality of life.
Breast reconstruction, as discussed previously, can be done by placing implants or autologous fat transfer from your own body. It is important to note that while implants and fat transplants are the basic reconstructions, the process is not limited to these options. When it comes to mastectomy reconstruction, areola and nipple reconstruction are also essential.
Sometimes breast reconstruction is done through Partial Mastectomy, i.e. just an expander placed for the shape to be filled after completion of the treatment procedures. That said, some women have a breast deformity or dimpling caused by removing a particularly large tumour from the breast. In such cases, partial reconstruction is done during the mastectomy reconstruction using smaller flaps, implants, grafting, or scar revision surgeries. The type of breast reconstruction depends largely on the size of your breasts, the extent and location of your breast cancer, your recovery rate, and overall health conditions. Other factors like your surgeries and those to be conducted ahead decide the ideal type of mastectomy reconstruction surgery for you.
During Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Breast reconstruction surgery takes one to six hours to complete, depending on the type of surgery you have been selected for. But the preparation takes around two hours. Autologous Fat transplant uses tissues from your inner thighs, buttocks, abdomen and upper back. The approximate time duration for the entire process is about 2 hours for the mastectomy, followed by another six to twelve hours for the reconstruction procedure. It is said to yield more natural-looking results, lasting lifelong as you do not need to change them after some time.
On the other hand, reconstruction through implants is quicker and gets over in three to four hours, with around two hours taken for the preparation and the anaesthetics to set in. Implant reconstruction has a shorter downtime than fat transfer, with a faster healing time. Additionally, in either of these procedures, a nipple transplant or graft, if done sidewise, takes another 3-4 hours.
As breast reconstruction surgery is an invasive procedure, it is performed under general anaesthesia. In reconstruction using breast implants, the breast skin is stretched with a tissue expander inside the breast. After a week, saline or silicone gels are placed inside, with repeat procedures extending for the next ten weeks for the desired reconstruction. After a few months, after the tissue has healed, the expander is removed, and implants are placed.
Sometimes implants are placed directly in the breast during mastectomy reconstruction without using any expanders. In this regard, Acellular Dermal Matrix has been increasingly used for implant-based breast reconstruction. Autologous Fat Transplant uses fat from your body parts for reconstruction surgery. Usually, abdominal fat is the first choice for the plastic surgeon. But tissues are taken from the thighs and buttocks in the case of women with prior abdominal surgery or without enough abdominal fat.
In some cases, implants and autologous tissues are used together. This procedure mode is preferred when there isn’t enough skin left after mastectomy for expansion when tissue via fat transfer is used to place the implant inside the breast. It is natural for you to feel anxious while reading about the procedure. We recommend booking a consultation with an expert surgeon at Bizrahmed to clarify your doubts regarding breast reconstruction surgery.
It takes around 7-10 days for the pain to subside and approximately 8 weeks for the inflammation to subside completely. You can rejoin work after 4 weeks and stop wearing compression garments and tubes 2 weeks after the surgery. But complete healing of the tissues and the removal of the surgical scars takes more than a year, with even more time for some of the breast sensations to return.
Mastectomy Reconstruction Recovery
After surgery, there will be a pain, discomfort, and soreness. This will persist for a week, during which you must restrict your movement and take other precautions for a successful recovery.
You will be discharged within a few days post-surgery once the surgeon is satisfied with your recovery rate. Compression garments must wear drains to remove extra fluid from the surgery site while it heals. It is believed that it was taken around 8 weeks for the inflammation to subside completely. Light exercises can be started 4-5 weeks post-breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
Implant reconstruction heals faster than autologous fat transplant, in which case the healing of the breast incision and donor incision sites must be considered. The tissues will completely heal, and the scars to fade completely in one year. There may not be any sensation in your breasts post-reconstruction. Some feelings may return after some years, but they will be minimal. While recovering from breast reconstruction after mastectomy, it is recommended to go for therapy for mental health and depression.
It takes around 7-10 days for the pain to subside and approximately 8 weeks for the inflammation to diminish completely. You can rejoin work after 4 weeks and stop wearing compression garments and tubes 2 weeks after the surgery. But complete healing of the tissues and the removal of the surgical scars takes more than a year, with even more time for some of the breast sensations to return.
In immediate reconstruction, the mastectomy and the reconstruction procedures are performed one after the other. Immediate reconstruction is usually preferred in women in the first and second stages of breast cancer who are undergoing mastectomy as a prophylactic measure and in whom removal of implants for chemo treatments will not be required.
Breast reconstruction involves using implants or tissues from your body to reconstruct the breasts. While implants involve using an expander followed by insertion of implants, fat transfer uses fat from your abdomen, buttocks, and thighs to be used in breast reconstruction. Either of these processes is done in phases, and it takes a long time to see the results post-surgery.
Implants are only a part of breast reconstruction. Implants are silicone devices filled with silicone or saline solution to be fitted inside the breasts. Implants are used in breast augmentation to enhance the size of the existing breasts or, in reconstruction cases, to reconstruct breasts after post-mastectomy. Apart from implants, tissues from your body can also be used for reconstruction.