Following a mastectomy, breast reconstruction restores the breast to a pre-mastectomy shape by using plastic surgery techniques. Women who are facing breast reconstruction rightfully have many questions about the reconstruction process and the appearance of the breast after the procedure.  Reconstruction procedures have come a long way over the last several years, making this medical procedure less scary and traumatic for women recovering from breast cancer or even those recovering from an elective mastectomy as a way to reduce their chances of getting breast cancer.

Breast reconstruction surgery is an individualized procedure and is not the right option for every woman. Reconstruction can be physically rewarding as well as emotionally rewarding for a woman who has undergone cancer treatment, but it can also be quite traumatic as it does alter your body’s shape and appearance.

In most cases, reconstruction surgery will happen alongside the mastectomy procedure, but other times it may be delayed until cancer treatment has ceased. Women that choose reconstruction surgery should communicate with their plastic surgeon and have a realistic expectation of what results can be achieved based on their own personal situation.  Ideally, women who opt for reconstructive surgery should have a positive outlook regarding their diagnosis and treatment.

Breast reconstruction is used to restore symmetry and make the breast appear as natural as possible. Reconstruction surgery can be used to reshape one breast or both if a bilateral mastectomy is necessary for the patient’s health and full recovery. Doctors have several options when performing reconstructive surgery. Some patients are able to have an autologous procedure, which uses the patient’s own body tissue to reconstruct the breast. Other patients may be better suited for implant-based procedures that use saline or silicone gel implants to reshape the breasts. It may also be possible for the doctor attending to your reconstructive surgery to use a hybrid method, which combines both the autologous and implant-based procedures.

Recovery time following reconstructive surgery varies from patient to patient. Following the surgery, patients will be required to wear an elastic band or a support bra to reduce swelling and provide added support. A thin tube will be inserted under the skin to remove excess blood or fluid from the reconstructive site. A pain pump may also be utilized if narcotic medication is used to reduce pain. Recovery can take several weeks as the swelling subsides and the breast(s) relax and improve their shape. Patients should make sure to schedule follow-up visits with their plastic surgeon based on a recommended schedule to ensure that everything is healing according to plan.