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What is Breast Reconstruction?

Article Details
  • Written By: Rachel Burkot
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Breast reconstruction is a procedure to reshape a woman’s breast after a mastectomy, the surgical procedure that removes a breast to treat or prevent breast cancer. Reconstruction cannot replace the breast that has been removed. It involves the surgical construction of an implant that does not have natural sensations like normal body parts, but implants generally look just like real breasts.

During breast reconstruction, a breast implant is formed from the tissue of the stomach, back, or buttocks of the woman. Doctors fill the tissue with either silicone gel or salt water. The origin of the tissue, as well as what it is filled with, varies from patient to patient. Such factors as age, health and body type are considered. The stages of reconstructive surgery include adding a nipple, changing the shape and size of the new breast and operating on the other breast so the two are the same size.

Most women are able to get an implanted breast that is very similar to the one they had before. Additionally, doctors can adjust it to the same size as their previous one. Both the areola and nipple can be added, and many women who have had a mastectomy are able to undergo successful breast reconstruction. Women who had to have a lumpectomy during breast cancer, however, may not need reconstruction; this is because a lumpectomy only removes the tumor and some tissue surrounding the breast.

Breast reconstruction is always performed by a plastic surgeon who has undergone training on implantations. Even if a woman is not sure she wants to have breast reconstruction, she should discuss it with her doctor and a plastic surgeon. It is a good idea to consider reconstructive surgery even before a mastectomy takes place, as it will give the patient a chance to consider the effects of the mastectomy and what can be done. Whether to undergo breast reconstruction is ultimately up to each woman. The most common reasons women choose this surgery include making the breasts look even and balanced, regaining the natural contour of the breasts and avoiding the use of an external prosthesis, a form that fits into the bra.

When a woman is naked, she will be able to tell the difference between her natural breast and the reconstructed one. Under a bra and clothes, however, the difference is not easily detected, especially if the surgeon has done a good job matching the shape and size of the implant to the natural breast. A woman’s self-esteem may improve greatly after breast reconstruction, and it may help her to overcome the emotional obstacles she is struggling with after breast cancer.

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