American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Benefits of breast reconstruction after fighting cancer

benefits of breast reconstruction after fighting cancer

Breast reconstruction is a procedure that can restore the shape, symmetry and size of one or both breasts following a lumpectomy or mastectomy treatment for breast cancer.

Reconstruction offers many women the opportunity to regain control of their body and self-image following the emotional journey through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

There are two common surgeries associated with breast cancer:

  • Lumpectomy: A lumpectomy is a breast cancer surgery that is used when cancer is present but has not yet spread (metastasize). During a lumpectomy, a lump is removed from the patient's breast, often altering the breast's shape and size.
  • Mastectomy: A mastectomy is a breast cancer surgery in which one or both of the patient's breasts are removed either partially or entirely. A mastectomy significantly alters the size, shape and appearance of the breasts.

Although these procedures are often necessary and can be lifesaving, studies have shown that the changes these surgeries produce can also adversely affect body image and lead to self-consciousness about breast appearance and scars.

Breast reconstruction can help to reverse these adverse effects by restoring a more natural shape and size of the affected breasts.

Advantages of breast reconstruction

There are several reasons a patient may choose to undergo a breast reconstruction procedure following a mastectomy or lumpectomy.

Breast reconstruction boosts confidence and self-esteem

For many women, the loss of breast tissue caused by a lumpectomy or mastectomy can negatively impact confidence and self-esteem.

Breast reconstruction can return the affected breasts to a more natural appearance. Doing so may also improve self-esteem and restore confidence for many patients.

Breast reconstruction can restore proportionality and balance

After undergoing a lumpectomy or mastectomy, many women feel dissatisfied with the perceived lack of symmetry and balance in their body, particularly if only one breast has been affected.

Breast reconstruction can restore this sense of balance and proportionality by restoring the breasts to their appearance before breast cancer.

Breast reconstruction can eliminate 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, wearing a breast form may require the use of specialized bras or adhesives, and some women may prefer to feel that their breasts are 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.

Breast reconstruction offers patients many options

Another benefit to breast reconstruction surgery is that the procedure can be customized to each patient's individual needs and situations. These options allow breast cancer survivors to find the approach that works for their goals on their own terms.

The following methods may be used as part of a breast reconstruction procedure.

Breast implant reconstruction

Breast implant reconstruction uses tissue expanders to gradually recreate the natural mound of the breast so that permanent saline or silicone implants may be placed. This is the least invasive method of breast reconstruction since it does not require harvesting tissue from another part of the body.

Fat transfer reconstruction

Fat transfer reconstruction may be a good option for patients who have had a lumpectomy or other partial breast trauma. Unlike implant reconstruction, fat transfer reconstruction uses fat tissue harvested from elsewhere on the patient's body to restore the natural shape of the affected breast or breasts.

Autologous breast reconstruction

Autologous breast reconstruction, also known as perforator flap reconstruction, is similar to a fat transfer reconstruction in that it involves harvesting tissue from elsewhere in the body to form a new breast. Although autologous reconstruction is a complex procedure that requires an experienced plastic surgeon, it can offer long-lasting results that look and feel like natural breasts.

With all of these options at their disposal, a skilled plastic surgeon can design the breast reconstruction procedure to meet the unique needs and desires of the individual patient.

Who are the best candidates for breast reconstruction?

Several factors should be considered when deciding whether breast reconstruction is the right choice for you.

The best candidates for a breast reconstruction procedure tend to be generally healthy nonsmokers who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy and are seeking to restore the shape and size of the affected breast or breasts.

Eating a healthy diet, carefully following your surgeon's postoperative instructions and setting realistic expectations for your procedure can also help to ensure your healing and recovery process goes as smoothly as possible.

Although none of the following will necessarily disqualify you from a breast reconstruction procedure, patients who regularly smoke, are significantly overweight or have hypertension or diabetes may experience additional complications while healing from a breast reconstruction and may not be ideal candidates.

If you are feeling uncertain whether a breast reconstruction might be right for you, request a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. A surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons will have the necessary knowledge and training to guide you through your options going forward.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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