Breast-conserving surgery, also known as lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy is a good alternative to mastectomy and usually has better cosmetic results in women diagnosed with small breast cancers. Still, depending on how much breast tissue is removed during lumpectomy, the size and shape of the breast that was operated on can change significantly.
A study asked more than 700 women who had a lumpectomy about their quality of life, feelings about their bodies, their health status, and other psychosocial aspects of their lives. After the lumpectomy, women whose breasts looked significantly different from each other (asymmetrical) were four times more likely to feel ashamed of their bodies or stigmatized compared to women whose breasts looked similar to each other (symmetrical). Women whose breasts looked different from each other also were 60% less likely to believe they were healthier after breast cancer surgery compared to women whose breasts looked similar. The greater the difference in appearance between a woman's breasts after lumpectomy, the more likely she was to be depressed.
If you're having a lumpectomy to treat breast cancer, talk to you doctor BEFORE the surgery about how both your breasts will look after lumpectomy, as well as the reconstruction options available if you're not satisfied with the way your breasts look. Because lumpectomy is usually followed by radiation therapy, your surgeon probably won't recommend reconstruction at the same time as lumpectomy. Still, knowing how your breast will look after lumpectomy and knowing all the reconstruction options available to you can help you feel better about yourself and your health after surgery.
After you've recovered from lumpectomy and any other treatments you may have, if you're not happy with the way your breast looks, tell your doctor about your concerns and ask about reconstruction. It's possible to have reconstructive surgery years after lumpectomy, so it's never too late to talk about your options. Talk to an experienced breast reconstruction surgeon who can help you decide what's best for your unique situation.
If you're having mastectomy instead of lumpectomy and want to know more about breast reconstruction, talk to your surgeon about reconstruction BEFORE your mastectomy is scheduled. Tell your breast surgeon you're considering reconstruction and you'd like to have a breast reconstruction surgeon involved in evaluating your options. There are many reconstruction choices and the best time to explore all available options is before you have surgery to treat breast cancer.
Visit the Breastcancer.org Breast Reconstruction section to learn more about the different types and timing of breast reconstruction.
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