The diagnosis of breast cancer can be a devastating shock for women. Thankfully, many women are able to overcome not only the cancer, but also restore a natural looking breast appearance. Breast reconstruction surgery has made great advancements, and today, women who have had their breasts removed due to cancer (mastectomy), can undergo breast restoration surgery to restore the look and feel of their breasts. Oklahoma City plastic surgeon, Dr. Clinton Webster, offers many different reconstruction techniques. The technique used will be determined after a thorough consultation. He will also work with the cancer surgeon during the treatment process to ensure a successful restoration. Breast reconstruction surgery is a tailored procedure that is created for each patients’ unique needs.
During your first consultation to discuss reconstruction surgery, it is important to disclose where you are in the treatment process and which cancer surgeon is treating you, as well as provide any necessary pathology reports. The reconstruction process may take place in multiple steps if the breast tissue needs to be stretched to make room for implants. This discovery phase will help guide the reconstruction process so patients end up with a new breast that is the size, shape and look they want.
Each reconstruction technique will be tailored according to the patient’s physical health, aesthetic goals, and personal preferences. There are many factors playing into the approach that will be taken. The ultimate goal is to ensure the patient is healthy and happy with their final breast results.
There are two primary categories of breast reconstruction techniques:
Breast reconstruction using silicone or saline implants is a common approach that generally starts with the use of a tissue expander to help form a suitable pocket for an implant. The expander may be inserted after the mastectomy procedure or during the same operative session. Over the course of several months, the expander will slowly be enlarged using a sterile solution injected through a port residing under the skin. During the scheduled reconstruction surgery, the expanders are removed and replaced with permanent implants.
If there is limited tissue inside the breast, or limited skin on the outside, tissue may be used from another part of the patient’s body to supplement this loss. The most common areas to support this process are the buttocks, thigh or abdomen. This is an autologous approach to breast reconstruction. The TRAM flap (Transverse Rectus Abdominus Myocutaneous), the DIEP flap and SIEA flap techniques involve taking skin and fat from the abdomen and relocating it to the breast. The Latissimus Dorsi Flap is another common method using tissue from the patient’s back.
During a mastectomy, the nipple and areola often cannot be saved. The loss of one’s nipple and areola can be as unnerving as the removal of the breast itself. However, reconstruction techniques have advanced greatly, allowing plastic surgeons the opportunity to recreate these areas of the breast to give a natural, aesthetically appealing appearance. In a separate procedure, the nipple is created using existing breast skin or from the abdominal or latissimus flap. Using a tattoo technique, the areola is recreated with a skin graft taken from the thigh, abdomen or back.
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed under general anesthesia at an accredited surgical facility. Some patients may be required to stay in the hospital to be monitored for complications. Patients who have had reconstruction using a flap technique will usually be required to stay in the hospital for 2-5 days. The recovery process can be somewhat lengthy, but many view it as the final step in their cancer journey thus the experience can be very rewarding. Most women are thankful to have had the opportunity to restore their breasts and are satisfied with their results.
This is a very specialized surgery that requires extensive knowledge, skill and experience. It is very important to research and find a qualified and reputable plastic surgeon who has experience with breast reconstruction surgery.
In many situations, it is recommended to start the reconstruction process at the same time as the mastectomy. Therefore, it is a good idea to have your breast cancer surgeon and your plastic surgeon begin communicating about the steps that will follow. An advantage of doing the procedure immediately is waking up from your mastectomy surgery with the reconstruction process in place. The soft tissue that surrounds the breast will heal simultaneously with the reconstruction, which can enhance the final results.
A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation as the breast did before the mastectomy. However, over time, some of this sensation will return to normal. This will depend on the extent of the reconstruction process and will vary by patient.