Breast reconstruction is a physically and emotionally rewarding procedure. For a woman who has lost a breast due to cancer or another disease, breast reconstruction is a physically and emotionally rewarding procedure. Reconstruction of a breast that has been partially or completely removed is possible through a combination of plastic surgery techniques that not only creates a new breast but also can dramatically improve a woman’s self-image, self-confidence, and quality of life.
The results of breast reconstruction can be relatively natural in appearance and feel; however, a reconstructed breast will never look or feel exactly the same as the breast that was removed. Breast reconstruction typically involves several procedures performed in multiple stages. It can begin at the same time as the mastectomy or may be delayed until a patient has healed from mastectomy and recovered from any additional cancer treatments that may be necessary. It is important that a woman feels ready for the emotional adjustment involved; much like losing a breast, it takes some time for a woman to accept the results of breast reconstruction.
Through the advocacy efforts of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and breast cancer support groups, insurance companies are now required by law to provide coverage for breast reconstruction and related procedures to adjust the opposite breast. Pre-certification may be required.
Where do I Begin?
A consultation with Dr. Sena is the first step to learn how breast reconstruction can restore your breast’s appearance. A consultation is designed to fully educate you about your options for breast reconstruction in a supportive, non-pressured environment and will include:
• A discussion of your goals and an evaluation of your individual case
• The options available in breast reconstruction surgery
• The likely outcomes of breast reconstruction and any risks or potential complications
Dr. Sena will also answer your questions.
What to Expect
The surgical techniques involved in breast reconstruction are performed in a hospital setting, possibly including a short hospital stay. Initial reconstruction procedures are most commonly performed under general anesthesia. Some procedures may be performed on an outpatient basis and local anesthesia with sedation may be used for certain follow-up procedures. These decisions will be based on the requirements of your specific procedure and considerations of patient and surgeon preference. Dr. Sena and the assisting staff will fully attend to your comfort and safety.
Following flap techniques and/or the insertion of an implant, gauze or bandages will be applied to your incisions. An elastic bandage or support bra will minimize swelling and support the reconstructed breast. A small, thin tube may be temporarily placed under the skin to drain any excess blood or fluid. Before being released from the hospital, you and an accompanying family member, friend or caregiver will be given specific instructions that may include:
• How to care for the surgical site
• Medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential risk of infection
• Specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in overall health
• When to follow up with Dr. Sena
Results and Outlook
The final results of breast reconstruction following mastectomy can help you feel physically and emotionally fulfilled. Over time, some breast sensation may return, and scar lines will improve, although never disappear completely. There are trade-offs, but most women feel these are small compared to the large improvement in their quality of life and the ability to look and feel whole again. Careful monitoring of breast health through self-exam, mammography, and other diagnostic techniques is essential to your long-term health.