Breast reconstruction surgery typically helps breast cancer patients regain a natural body profile, which can help with the psychological healing process. Breast reconstruction can either be done at the same time as a patient's mastectomory or partial mastectomy; however, depending on the patient's health and the extent of the surgery required, a physician may recommend waiting several weeks before beginning reconstruction procedures.
Types of reconstructive breast procedures include:
Expander and Implant Reconstruction
Uses a temporary saline-filled tissue expander, which is placed under the chest muscle of the affected breast. After the initial surgery, saline is added to the expanders during regular follow-up visits to gradually stretch the skin. Once the skin has stretched sufficiently, the expander is removed and replaced with a permanent saline or silicone implant during a second outpatient surgery.
Latissimus Flap Reconstruction
One of several procedures that uses tissue from the patient's own body to reconstruct a breast. Skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels are taken from an area of the patient's upper back, specifically the latissimus dorsi, to create a new breast mound. An implant may be used to make sure the size of both breasts appears balanced.
Transverse Rectus Abdominus Myocutaneous (TRAM) Flap Reconstruction
Another procedure that takes skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels from the patient's body to reform the breast, in this case from the abdominal area. The abdominal incisions are closed using a procedure similar to a "tummy tuck." Implants are not usually required with TRAM flap reconstruction.
Involves reconstructing both breasts to achieve the most balanced appearance possible. This can require a number of procedures performed over time. The final stages involved creating new nipples and areolas.
Nipple reconstruction - a procedure that takes skin from the patient's breast to recreate a nipple. This procedure can usually be done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia and takes one to two hours.
Partial mastectomy and lumpectomy reconstruction - partial mastectomies and lumpectomies are sometimes called "breast conserving surgeries (BCBs)." Depending on the amount of tissue removed, reconstructive procedures may be needed to make the breasts appear even.