Breast Reconstruction is the aspect of Plastic Surgery that treats deformities of the breast due to breast cancer, trauma (accidents), or any other process which significantly alters the shape and/or function of the breast.
The most common indication for Breast Reconstruction is re-creation of a breast following treatment for breast cancer – such as mastectomy, or lumpectomy (also called ‘segmental mastectomy,’ partial mastectomy, among other names).
There are many options for breast reconstruction and not all patients are candidates for all options. There are many factors which go into determining which reconstructive option is best for you. Some factors are medical – such as whether or not you had radiation therapy, or what stage your breast cancer was. Other factors are more personal – such as your physical and anatomic characteristics and lifestyle.
Being diagnosed with cancer of any kind is a life-changing event, but being diagnosed with cancer of the breast has unique aspects that are not relevant to many cancers. The female breast is an inherent part of a woman’s sense of self as well as femininity. For this reason, a law was passed in 1998 called the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act which requires most group insurance plans to cover breast reconstruction after breast cancer. Visit American Cancer Society’s website for more information.
Sadly, many women do not know this, or are never given the option for reconstruction by their other doctors. Statistically speaking, only about 1 in 5 patients get breast reconstruction.
How does breast reconstruction surgery work?
There are two main ways to perform breast reconstruction: utilizing breast implants, or utilizing your own tissues. Sometimes a combination of the two is performed.
Using your own tissue: in appropriate candidates, extra abdominal tissue around the waistline can be used to create a breast. In many ways, this is similar to getting a tummy tuck, however, the extra tissue is used to create a breast instead of being discarded. This surgery has many names, commonly referred to as a “TRAM” flap or a “DIEP” flap.
Using implants: in patients who do not have enough abdominal tissue to create a breast, or otherwise prefer not to do that surgery, breast implants can be used to create the breast. Most frequently, you must undergo a period of tissue expansion to stretch the skin you have to create space for the breast implant. Following the tissue expansion, a breast implant is then placed.
Conditions potentially corrected by breast reconstruction surgery
- Mastectomy: a mastectomy is when all of the breast tissue is removed, oftentimes along with the nipple and areola. This is the most common indication
- Lumpectomy (also called partial mastectomy or segmental mastectomy): when only the tumor and some surrounding breast tissue is removed. Oftentimes this can leave a visible “dent” in the breast which can become exaggerated after radiation therapy.
How to get started
Many patients get a referral from their breast surgeon for a different plastic surgeon who performs breast reconstruction. However, some patients have undergone their therapy and never had breast reconstruction. Regardless, it is okay to take the initiative and request a consultation directly from breast augmentation surgeon Dr. Correa.
Breast reconstruction is a very complex process and it can feel overwhelming to try and figure out what is best for you and what to expect. However, you do not need to do this all on your own and Dr. Correa takes pride in his ability to explain your options in a way that allows you to make your decision with confidence.