Breast reconstruction surgery is a procedure often carried out for women fighting breast cancer who have a lumpectomy, mastectomy, or double mastectomy. This procedure is able to restore the shape, symmetry, and size of one or more breasts and rebuild the breast tissue after going through breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction offers women that have gone through breast cancer the opportunity to feel comfortable with their bodies. It can improve their self-image and self-esteem after the taxing and emotional journey of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
There are two common procedures breast cancer patients can go through during treatment: lumpectomy and mastectomy. A lumpectomy procedure is used when cancer is present, but is a smaller size. During a lumpectomy, a lump is removed from the patient’s breast, often altering the breast shape and size and leaving it looking irregular or asymmetric to the other side. A mastectomy procedure is when one or both of the patient’s breasts are removed entirely. A mastectomy significantly alters the size, shape, and appearance of the breasts. A mastectomy typically results in a surgically absent breast, which can resemble a male chest. In some cases, there can be significant contour and skin irregularities, in addition.
Although these surgical interventions for breast cancer are necessary and often lifesaving, these changes in the body after the procedure can adversely affect body image and sometimes the patient’s mental and emotional health. Many breast cancer survivors may feel like their identity as a woman has been taken away after having a mastectomy. They may also struggle with confidence and self-image if their breasts’ appearance, size, and shape are no longer what they used to be after a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Breast reconstruction surgery can help reverse these adverse effects and restore the breasts’ natural shape, size, and look. In this article, we’ll go over the many benefits of undergoing breast reconstruction surgery after cancer and how you can take the next steps if you’re considering this procedure yourself.
Benefits of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
There are several benefits of undergoing breast reconstruction surgery after cancer. Many women may want to return to how they looked previously, but the benefits go beyond looks with this surgery.
- Restores Balance and Proportion of the Body
After undergoing a lumpectomy or mastectomy, it can create asymmetry and a lack of balance in the body that many women may be unhappy with. Many women feel like they’ve lost their feminine shape or natural bodily proportions. This can be especially relevant if both breasts were completely removed, leaving a flat chest, or if only one or a portion of the breast was removed, leaving an asymmetrical look. Breast reconstruction can return the breasts to a natural appearance, restore a sense of balance and symmetry, and help bring back the patient’s natural body proportions.
- Boosts Confidence and Self-Esteem
For many women, the loss of breast tissue from a lumpectomy or the entire loss of the breasts from a mastectomy can negatively impact their confidence and self-esteem. The breasts are an important part of a woman’s femininity, and the loss of them can also impact a patient’s confidence and identity as a woman. Breast reconstruction can restore the natural feminine appearance of the breasts, which can help boost confidence and self-esteem. It can also help patients feel comfortable and confident in certain clothing again.
- Eliminates the Need for a Prosthesis
Many women who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy choose to wear a specialized prosthesis known as a breast form. However, this can be very inconvenient since it usually requires the use of specialized bras or adhesives. Many women also prefer that their breasts feel like a natural part of their bodies. Breast reconstruction eliminates the need for a prosthesis by creating a new breast that feels like a natural part of the patient’s body.
- Provides Customized Options for Each Patient’s Needs
There are many different breast reconstruction options nowadays, meaning patients can get a more customized result that best fits their needs and preferences. More options now allow plastic surgeons to tailor the procedure and methods used to meet the desired outcome. The variety of options can also help women feel like the control of their bodies is being put back in their hands, and they can restore their breasts on their terms.
- Provides Permanent Results
Whether using implants or natural tissue, breast reconstruction surgery offers natural and permanent results to last patients for the rest of their lives. The results of breast reconstruction provide women with long-lasting, frequently permanent results. This eliminates the need to have additional surgeries in the future. It also helps people move past the history of cancer and feel they have a fresh start after the surgery.
Breast Reconstruction Options
Breast reconstruction offers patients many options for how to approach restoring their breasts. Breast cancer survivors can find and choose the approach that works for their own goals and preferences.
The following options may be used for breast reconstruction:
- Breast implants – this option uses tissue expanders to naturally recreate the natural mound of the breast so that permanent saline or silicone implants may be placed.
- Fat transfer – this option harvests fat tissues from other areas of the patient’s body and transfers the tissue to the affected area of the breast to restore natural shape and size.
- Autologous – this option is made up of a number of different procedures which borrow tissue from other parts of the body to recreate a breast mound. Some of these procedures may require microsurgery and additional scars where donor tissues are taken from.
Who’s a Good Candidate for Breast Reconstruction
There are multiple factors to consider when deciding whether someone is a good candidate for breast reconstruction surgery. The best candidates for breast reconstruction are healthy, non-smoking individuals who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy and desire to restore the shape, size, and appearance of the affected breast or breasts. Medical conditions that can make a patient a poor candidate include smoking, obesity, hypertension, and/or diabetes, among others. However, these factors don’t necessarily disqualify someone from getting breast reconstruction.
The best way to determine if you’re a good candidate for breast reconstruction is by having a consultation with a plastic surgeon who can provide you with a medical evaluation and determine if you’re healthy enough. They will also review your current breast structure and determine the best procedure to restore your natural breast shape and size.
The Bottom Line
There are several benefits to breast reconstruction surgery after cancer, from restoring the natural look of the breasts to restoring confidence and self-esteem. If you’re a breast cancer survivor and considering breast reconstruction surgery, consult with a licensed plastic surgeon about your options, desired outcome, and next steps to scheduling your procedure.
Ready to get started? Leif Rogers, MD, is an Ivy League-educated, board-certified plastic surgeon and a standing member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. If you’re considering breast reconstruction, get in touch with his team to schedule a consultation.