Breast reconstruction is an option for women and men after having a mastectomy due to a breast cancer diagnosis. It is also a consideration for women who have tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation and wish to have a prophylactic mastectomy to greatly decrease the chances of getting cancer. Breast reconstruction is a personal choice, a choice that is not for everyone, but a choice that everyone deserves to know about. So what are the options for breast reconstruction? There are three types:
It is important to research all options before deciding on a method to consider. There are reasons why you may choose one option over the other. There are still many challenges that individuals face when it comes to considering their reconstruction preference. They might include the following:
The passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act in December of 2015 hopes to not only educate a larger populous of men and women about their breast reconstruction options but also speak to many of these challenges that are faced in making a decision to have reconstructive surgery after breast cancer or for prophylactic reason due to a BRCA gene mutation. As with any new educational initiative, this will take time and implementation but there is greater hope that we can reach a broader audience and continue to educate and inform about options with the passage of the Breast Cancer Patient Education Act.
There are many resources available to begin research for what choice might be considered for breast reconstruction. There are survivors and advocates who write informative blogs about their own breast reconstruction experience and provide helpful information from how they chose their surgeon and continuing through to the recovery process.
Travel assistant programs are available for patients but you must call to find out if you are eligible. There are also 501c3 groups who assist women with travel in breast reconstruction. Below are just a few of those travel resources:
It is imperative to be your own best advocate. This can be a daunting task when you are faced with a breast cancer diagnosis. You are inundated with information about your diagnosis and treatment and sometimes reconstruction is the last thing on your mind. You just want the cancer to be gone. However, you may very well want to consider reconstruction at some point in the process. It is to your benefit to consult with a plastic surgeon soon after your diagnosis to consider your options and timing.
An important question to ask when you have been told you are facing a mastectomy is, "What are my reconstruction options if I choose to have my breasts rebuilt after my mastectomy?" Every woman and man diagnosed with breast cancer has the right to this information to move forward with making an informed decision. Your radiologist, breast surgeon, or oncologist may just have a connection or name to a board certified plastic surgeon for you to talk to.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has a "surgeon finder" on their website with board-certified plastic surgeons who perform breast reconstruction. If you are considering autologous reconstruction, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery also has a "surgeon finder" for patients. When choosing autologous reconstruction it is important to find a microsurgeon, a specialty in plastic surgery that requires a specialized fellowship and further training.
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 does not involve one surgery in most instances. It can take two or more surgeries to complete the process and time to heal and recover in between surgeries. Revision and symmetry phases, as well as nipple and areola rebuilding or tattooing (for those who have not had a nipple-sparing mastectomy – NSM), can be part of this process.
There is a lot that goes into the planning process of this surgery but reaching out for help makes it an attainable goal. Many have had it done successfully and the hope is that this will continue to be an attainable goal for more as the science and developments in breast reconstruction continue.
For more information, including a list of ASPS plastic surgeons in your community, please use our Find a Plastic Surgeon tool.
Please join Dr. David H. Song (@DrDavidSong) and Terri Coutee (@6state) on Twitter this Monday (Feb 22) at 9pm ET for their #BCSM tweet chat. For more information on how to be involved with this tweet chat, please check out the #BCSM guide to tweet chats.