Many women may need a mastectomy because they have been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at a very high risk of developing breast cancer. Often, the treatment for breast cancer requires the removal of one or both of the breast mounds. While this procedure can be life-saving, for many women it comes with a high price. An important part of the road to recovery, and an option suitable for many mastectomy patients, is breast reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that attempts to restore the natural shape and appearance of breasts that have undergone mastectomy. The procedure may deal with one or both breast mounds, depending on the specifics of the mastectomy. One of the most important aspects of breast reconstruction is that the procedure is highly individualized to meet the needs and concerns of the patient.
The results of the procedure are variable. Reconstructed breasts will not feel the same as the natural breast, and there will be visible surgical marks. Ideally, candidates for breast reconstruction should be in a good place with their diagnosis and treatment. They should not have additional medical issues that may complicate healing. It is also critical for patients to have realistic goals and a positive outlook on their body image.
One of the key considerations of breast reconstruction is the timing of the procedure. Generally, a procedure can begin at the same time as the mastectomy or may be delayed until after the patient recovers from breast cancer treatments.
There are a number of reasons why patients may choose one option over the other. Some may want to delay the procedure because they are not emotionally ready for reconstruction surgery, while others may want some of the options available for a procedure performed during the mastectomy. Breast reconstruction performed at the same time as a mastectomy can often yield results that appear more natural.
There are different techniques that are available for breast reconstruction. Often, in order to reconstruct the breast mound, a flap technique may be used. A flap technique uses the patient’s own muscle, fat, and skin from a donor area of the body to rebuild the breast. Available options may include the TRAM, DIEP, and SGAP flap techniques. The TRAM flap is one of the most common, where skin from the abdomen is taken and moved to the breast mound.
There are also techniques where tissue expanders are placed in the breast pockets to stretch the skin and make room for breast implants. Breast implants are often used in breast reconstruction in order to create the proper breast size and shape. Fat grafting and other specialized techniques may be used to add size to the breast or rebuild the nipple and areola.
The technique used will vary depending on a number of factors, such as patient preference, the amount of available tissue in a donor area, and the elasticity of the patient’s skin.
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