If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer and you require a mastectomy, you will also need to consider whether you would like to have breast reconstruction. If you feel there is too much going on at this stage and you already have a lot to cope with – you do have options. You can have delayed reconstruction surgery, which means you don't have to worry about making a decision at this stage of your treatment.
Whatever route you choose to go down – delayed or immediate reconstruction surgery, you do have to make an informed decision. Look into your options before you make any decisions. There are advantages and disadvantages of both methods:
• Easier psychological adjustment
• Possibility of fewer operations and less anesthetics
• Your new breast may look better as your surgeon will be able to make use of your existing breast skin
• Possibility of less scaring on the reconstructed breast and better aesthetic results
• Could affect your treatment path if something was to go wrong with the surgery. Most chemo works best if started within 6 weeks of your cancer surgery
• If you require radiotherapy after the operation it may damage the reconstruction
• More time to make your decision
• Less complex surgery
• Post op complications shouldn't affect your treatment as it should all be completed by now
• Decreased length of operation and recovery
• Longer period of time without your breast
• Another operation to recover from after all your treatments are over
• Results could be less aesthetically pleasing
In the first instance you will need to discuss what option is best for you with your doctor. Unfortunately you may not have a choice, this will depend on your treatments and your doctor will advise what is best for your particular set of circumstances, taking into account your stage of breast cancer.
The breast reconstruction surgery involves rebuilding the breast to a similar size and shape to your own breast. The nipple and areola can also be added in some cases. However you will need to consider the fact that your new breast will not be identical to the remaining one or your breast that was removed.
There are different options for surgery, which you will need to discuss with your doctor. You may be advised to take a specific method depending on your circumstances. One method is to take away the entire breast and insert an implant under the skin or chest muscle, allowing the remaining skin to stretch over time.
Another method is to remove just the breast tissue, leaving the skin and inserting an implant. An alternative is to use your own living tissue from parts of your own body such as the abdomen, back or chest wall.
In addition to this there is also a method that combines an implant and your own living tissue. You will need to be aware that operations can cause scarring, pain and infections and you may experience a loss of sensation in your breast or nipple.
Whatever route you and your doctor decide to go down, you need to be happy with your decision. So make sure you do plenty of research, listen to what your doctor advises and if possible try and speak to someone who has had a similar surgery.
For many women breast reconstruction plays a major role in their emotional recovery from cancer, so it's important to make the right decision.