Breast reconstruction is an option for women and men after undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer. It is also a consideration for women who have tested positive for a gene mutation (such as BRCA) and wish to have a prophylactic mastectomy to greatly decrease the chances of getting cancer. The decision to undergo breast reconstruction is ultimately personal, a choice that is not for everyone, but a choice that everyone deserves to know about.
What are the options for breast reconstruction? There are three types:
It is important to research all options. There are reasons why you may choose one option over the other, and it is possible to switch from one type of reconstruction to another (such as autologous reconstruction for failed implants). There are still many challenges that individuals face when it comes to considering their reconstruction preference. They might include the following:
There are many resources available to begin research for breast reconstruction choices. Technical details can be reviewed with your surgeon, but it is far more important to find a surgeon who understands your goals and establishes a shared-decision making environment. There are survivors and advocates who write informative blogs about their own breast reconstruction experience and provide helpful information about choosing their surgeon and the recovery process. It is to your benefit to consult with a plastic surgeon soon after your diagnosis to consider your options and timing.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) features a "surgeon finder" with board-certified plastic surgeons who perform breast reconstruction. If you are considering autologous reconstruction, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) also has a "surgeon finder" for patients. When choosing autologous reconstruction, it is important to find an experienced microsurgery team that performs a high volume of these specialized procedures.
Important questions to ask your plastic surgeon, whether for implant based or autologous reconstruction, include but are not limited to the following questions:
Breast reconstruction often involves more than one procedure. It can take two or more surgeries to complete the process and allow time to heal and recover between surgeries. Revision and symmetry procedures, as well as nipple and areola reconstruction or tattooing (for those who have not had a nipple-sparing mastectomy – NSM), can be part of this process.
For more information, including a list of ASPS plastic surgeons in your community, please use our Find a Plastic Surgeon tool.