Breast Cancer, Mastectomies and Breast Reconstruction Surgery

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October may have been Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but given that one out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, “awareness” should be a factor every month. Naturally, the first line of awareness should consist of education about the disease, along with early detection efforts through self-exams and regularly scheduled mammograms. Educational awareness about the disease types and stages can help those receiving a breast cancer diagnosis determine the best treatment options. Those whose treatment includes a lumpectomy or mastectomy need to be aware of the various breast reconstruction surgery options available to them.

Education and awareness are key with regard to all mastectomy and breast reconstruction decision making. Thus, it is important for women faced with a mastectomy to thoroughly discuss all options with their breast surgeon, oncologist and qualified plastic surgeon. While some women decide not to undergo breast reconstruction surgery, the procedure does help women feel more confident about their appearance after a mastectomy. Additionally, federal law requires insurance plans to cover the costs of breast reconstruction in most circumstances.

Timing of Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Among the first considerations that need to be made when faced with a mastectomy and breast reconstruction is timing. Those needing a mastectomy can opt to have breast reconstruction at the same time. However, this “immediate reconstruction” option may not be available to women with specific surgical risk factors such as smoking and being overweight, among others, or to those facing certain post-surgery follow-up procedures.

Delayed reconstruction can be conducted after the mastectomy incisions have healed and all other breast cancer therapies have been successfully concluded. Delayed reconstruction can be performed months or even years after the original mastectomy, and is often undertaken by women who have successfully mitigated risks that prevented immediate reconstruction.

Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Generally, breast reconstruction can be done with breast implants or natural tissue flaps. Breast implants are a simpler reconstruction option because the surgery is less invasive with less recovery than natural tissue flap surgery. With breast implants, patients can opt for either saline or silicone implants. While the outer shell of both implants is made of silicone, the shell is filled with either silicone or a saline solution. As silicone is more viscous than saline, it is believed to be the solution that more closely mimics the natural look and feel of breast tissue, and is preferred for breast reconstruction. A number of studies have shown silicone to be a safe implant.

Natural tissue flap surgery utilizes skin and tissue from the patient’s own body, which allows the reconstructed breast to look and feel more like a natural breast than either silicone or saline implants. However, the procedure requires additional surgery on the other parts of the body from which the tissue is being removed, leaves additional scars, and is far more intensive than implant surgery.

Nipple and Areola Reconstruction

While “nipple-sparing” mastectomies are becoming more common, they are by no means optional, and most women will still need nipple and areola reconstruction as part of their overall breast reconstruction. This is generally performed on an outpatient basis as the last stage of breast reconstruction surgery. The procedure can often be done in the office setting and is much simpler than the actual breast reconstruction.

Gardner Plastic Surgery in Naples, Florida, has long offered breast reconstruction as part of its practice. In fact, with a vast knowledge base of cosmetic breast surgery techniques, Dr. Paul Gardner is renowned for his skill at breast reconstruction following treatment for breast cancer. If you are facing a mastectomy, learn how Dr. Gardner can help you retain a positive body image with breast reconstruction surgery, by contacting Gardner Plastic Surgery today at 239.566.2611 to schedule your initial consultation.

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