You may have had or are about to have a mastectomy, either because you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at very high risk of developing it in the future. If so, your doctor may have told you about options to rebuild your breast or breasts — a surgery called breast reconstruction. Typically, breast reconstruction takes place during or soon after mastectomy, and in some cases, lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction also can be done many months or even years after mastectomy or lumpectomy. During reconstruction, a plastic surgeon creates a breast shape using an artificial implant (implant reconstruction), a flap of tissue from another place on your body (autologous reconstruction), or both.
Whatever your age, relationship status, sexual activity, or orientation, you can't predict how you will react to losing a breast. It’s normal to feel anxious, uncertain, sad, and mournful about giving up a part of your body that was one of the hallmarks of becoming a woman: a significant part of your sexuality, what made you look good in clothes, how you might have fed your babies. No one can ever take that away from you. Moving forward, you now have the opportunity to determine what you want to have happen next. But first you must do some careful thinking and delving into your feelings in order to figure out what is best for you. In this section, we’ll talk you through each of the reconstruction options, what’s involved, and any risks, as well as alternatives to reconstruction.
Asking yourself some questions can help you start to think about what type of reconstruction you want -- if you want reconstruction at all:
- How important is rebuilding your breast to you?
- Can you live with a breast form that you take off and put on?
- Will breast reconstruction help you to feel whole again?
- Are you OK with having more surgery for breast reconstruction after mastectomy or lumpectomy?
It's also important to know that while breast reconstruction rebuilds the shape of the breast, it doesn't restore sensation to the breast or the nipple. Over time, the skin over the reconstructed breast can become more sensitive to touch, but it won't be exactly the same as it was before surgery.
This section of Breastcancer.org helps you understand your options AND sort through the medical and personal issues around breast reconstruction that you should consider.
In this section:
- Is Breast Reconstruction Right for You?
- Going Flat: Choosing No Reconstruction
- Prosthetics: An Alternative to Reconstruction
- When Is Breast Reconstruction Done?
- Types of Breast Reconstruction
- Finding a Qualified Plastic Surgeon
- Questions to Ask Your Surgeon About Breast Reconstruction
- Paying for Reconstruction Procedures
- Satisfaction With Breast Reconstruction Results
- Screening After Breast Reconstruction
- Pictures of Breast Reconstruction
To connect with others about their experiences with breast reconstruction, join the Breastcancer.org Discussion Board Breast Reconstruction forum.
The medical experts for Breast Reconstruction are:
- Frank J. DellaCroce, M.D., F.A.C.S., plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and the St. Charles Surgical Hospital, New Orleans, LA
- Scott K. Sullivan, M.D., F.A.C.S., plastic surgeon, co-founder of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery and the St. Charles Surgical Hospital, New Orleans, LA
- Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S., Breast Health Program medical director, Holy Redeemer Health System; Board of Advocates of the American Society of Breast Surgeons chairman
- Steven J. Kronowitz, M.D., F.A.C.S., associate professor of plastic surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
- Dahlia Sataloff, M.D., F.A.C.S., clinical professor of surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Comprehensive Breast Center director and Department of Surgery vice chairman, Pennsylvania Hospital Department of Surgery
- Robert Allen, M.D., plastic surgeon, founder of The Center for Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction and the Group for the Advancement of Breast Reconstruction; clinical professor of plastic surgery at NYU Medical Center, Medical University of South Carolina, and LSU Health Sciences Center
- Marisa Weiss, M.D., chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org; breast radiation oncologist, Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health, a five-hospital health system in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA
To read stories from some of our Discussion Board Community members about their reconstruction decisions, visit our Member Stories: Members Sharing Their Reconstruction Decisions pages.
“My hope is to enhance the quality of care to our patients by making available to them the most innovative and progressive treatment options possible.”
— Scott K. Sullivan, M.D., F.A.C.S., Center For Restorative Breast Surgery, New Orleans, LA
“I continue to be humbled by the impact this work has, both on the women we take care of and those who are near and dear to them. The effects of breast reconstruction have the capacity to transcend the surgical techniques, providing the final link in the circle of treatment, a return to wholeness, and an overall sense of recovery.”
— Frank J. DellaCroce, M.D., F.A.C.S., Center For Restorative Breast Surgery, New Orleans, LA