Mastectomy can be an emotionally charged decision for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Indeed the idea of parting the significant part of the body that symbolises femininity, motherhood and self-identity can be overwhelming. But medical advances have provided women with breast reconstruction options that allow them to reclaim their bodies’ physical appearance post surgery.
In this blog, we will delve deep into the subject of breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy, exploring all available options, procedures involved and any considerations one should keep in mind when making their choice.
What Is Mastectomy?
Before discussing reconstruction, it’s imperative to understand what constitutes a mastectomy and its different types.
Definition: A mastectomy is a surgical process used to remove one or both breasts entirely or partially for medical reasons – typically to treat or prevent breast cancer.
Types of Mastectomy
Simple or Total Mastectomy
The surgery removes all breast tissue, including the nipple, areola, and skin, as well as any associated lymph nodes and nerve endings.
When to Perform: Doctors may recommend breast biopsy surgery when they detect multiple areas of cancer or to preventatively treat women at high risk for developing it.
Recovery: Since a simple mastectomy only removes tissue found within the breast itself and doesn’t involve extensive tissue removal, you may recover faster than you would from more invasive surgeries.
Modified Radical Mastectomy
A Modified Radical Mastectomy is a more extensive surgery compared to Simple Mastectomy.
What Is Removed: In addition to removing the entire breast, nipple, areola, and skin, this procedure also takes out lymph nodes from the underarm area, known as axillary lymph nodes. Doctors then test these nodes for cancer to see if any new cancerous spots have appeared.
When to do it: Removing lymph nodes may be recommended when cancer has spread to lymph nodes or when its chances have increased significantly, as doing so helps lower the chance of it returning to that region. Removing these nodes helps lower cancer recurrence risks by helping reduce the chances of spread within that area.
Recovery: Due to its more intensive nature, recovery from lymph node removal surgery could take longer and include managing potential side effects like lymphedema (where excess fluid collects in tissues and causes swelling).
A double mastectomy is a surgery that removes both breasts completely. The surgical approach can vary, often involving two separate mastectomies or other methods, based on each patient’s unique circumstances.
What’s being removed: Both breasts in their entirety.
When to do it: This procedure might be recommended for various reasons, including cancer in both breasts – although rare, but possible..
Recovery: Recovering from a double mastectomy may take more time due to its extensive nature. Recovery timeframes depend on individual circumstances and any additional treatments or reconstructions performed simultaneously with surgery.
Why Consider Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction surgery rebuilds the mounds to match those of both breasts after mastectomy. It helps women regain self-confidence post-surgery. Some other reasons women choose reconstruction include:
- Restoring wholeness and femininity
- Not wanting external prostheses
- Wanting balance in clothes, appearance, etc.
- Emotional and psychological well-being.
After Mastectomy Options for Breast Reconstruction
Understanding all your options when considering reconstructive breast surgery is an integral component of making an informed decision about breast reconstruction. Here are the primary methods:
Implant-Based Reconstruction: Uses silicone or saline implants to rebuild breasts.
Flap (or autologous) Reconstruction: Utilizing tissue harvested from other parts of the body, such as abdominal, thigh, or back areas to reconstruct missing portions.
Combination of Implant and Flap: Blending both methods together for an even more natural appearance.
Reconstruction of Nipple and Areola: Reconstructing of Nipple and Areola may be performed after initial reconstruction has taken place in order to recreate them.
Factors Affecting Reconstruction
Your decision on reconstruction options after mastectomy will depend upon several factors, including:
Personal Preferences: Do you prefer a more natural-looking reconstruction, or is simpler the better choice?
Body Type: Some options may be more appropriate depending on your body shape and tissue availability.
Cancer Treatment: Radiation therapy might impact which reconstruction type to choose due to its effect on skin elasticity and healing.
Recovery Times for Certain Procedures: Some procedures might require more extensive recoveries.
Risks and Complications: All surgeries involve potential risks.
Recovery and Aftercare
No matter which breast reconstruction options you choose after a mastectomy, it is crucial that you:
- Adhere to post-operative care guidelines provided by your surgeon. Attend all follow-up appointments as scheduled and comply with post-treatment recommendations provided.
- Understand potential complications and any changes. Give yourself plenty of time and emotional space for physical and psychological healing.
Conclusion: Making the Right Decision
Breast reconstruction after mastectomy is a personal choice; no single solution fits all women. Work closely with your medical team, explore all your options, and take your time in making your selection before making your choice. Dr. Dev Wali of Claremont, CA, is well known for performing exceptional breast reconstruction surgeries. To discuss your best options following a mastectomy, schedule a consultation today with him!