Unsuccessful nipple reconstruction?

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Question from Debby: I had reconstruction done approximately two years ago. At that time the surgeon said he did all he could to give me nipples and it just hasn't worked, so I gave up. I hate my breast now - no feeling AND no nipples. Is it really hopeless that I can't have nipples? He never took skin from any other area.
Answers - Maurice Nahabedian Most surgeons now who do nipple reconstruction create nipples by rearranging some of the local tissue on the breast. One of the down sides of these techniques, and there are probably about seven or eight of them, is that the nipples will sometimes flatten too much, and occasionally the nipple reconstruction will have to be repeated. In my practice, this rate is approximately 10%.

In situations where I do have to redo a nipple reconstruction in order to create more projection, I will sometimes use some semi-synthetic material to place within the substance of the nipples to maintain that projection, and this seems to work reasonably well.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. What kind of material do you use?
Maurice Nahabedian I like to use AlloDerm. It's essentially human collagen that's been processed and created in various size sheets. You can pick small segments and insert them between small skin flaps. It creates more scar tissue within the nipple to give it some more long-lasting projection.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. By projection, we mean to give the nipple height. If you want to get nipples overnight, you can actually purchase latex "nipples." There are several companies that make them. You can go to a specialty shop to find them. Nordstrom's department stores carry a full line of all kinds of prostheses for the whole breast as well as just for the nipples.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Breast Reconstruction featured Maurice Nahabedian, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about different techniques in breast reconstruction, the pros and cons of implants and body tissue transfers, when you might want to reconstruct, and many more issues related to rebuilding your breast/s after breast cancer surgery.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in November 2003.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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