Breast Reconstruction: Life After a Breast Cancer

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It’s estimated that about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop some form of breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, the survival rate of breast cancer varies between 77 – 90%, depending on the time frame after diagnosis. While modern medicine has helped millions of women beat breast cancer, they are often left with scars and deformities from the surgeries that had to be done to remove the cancerous tumors.

After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, women are often left feeling self-conscious because of the appearance of their breasts. Lumpectomies are generally a less invasive procedure, and typically result in large divots some asymmetry in one or both breasts. Mastectomies, however, are highly invasive, and completely remove all of the breast tissue, including the nipple. This new appearance is emotionally devastating for many women and it takes a large toll on their self-confidence

Luckily, many cosmetic surgeons are specifically trained in breast reconstruction and are able to provide breast cancer survivors with the look they had pre-surgery.

There are two different types of breast reconstruction available: autologous reconstruction and prosthetic reconstruction.

Autologous Reconstruction

For an autologous breast reconstruction, the plastic surgeon uses the patient’s own tissue and skin to reconstruct the breast tissue where it was removed as a result of the lumpectomy or mastectomy. This tissue is usually taken from donor areas on the body like the stomach, back, or buttocks. Because of the complexity of these surgeries, the recovery time is typically greater both for the breasts and for the donor areas.

Prosthetic Reconstruction

A prosthetic reconstruction simply uses traditional implants like those that are used for breast augmentations to replace the removed breast tissue. Patients typically have a choice between silicone and saline implants, depending on their preferences for weight and feel. The procedure for a prosthetic implant is generally less complicated, and patients have less of a recovery time than when using donor tissue.

Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon

It’s important to do your research when it comes to choosing a cosmetic surgeon to perform your breast reconstruction. Cosmetic surgeons do have different specialties, and you want to make sure that your surgeon has extensive experience with breast reconstruction, not just breast augmentation.  You’ll also want to make sure that the surgeon you choose is board certified to make sure you’re choosing someone with proven expertise.

There really is no right or wrong choice when it comes to deciding which type of reconstructive procedure to choose. When you visit a cosmetic surgeon for a consultation, he or she can evaluate your particular case and help you decide if prosthetic or autologous reconstruction is the best option for you.

About the Author: Erika Potter is a freelance writer for Dr. Michael Self, one of the leading plastic surgeons in Utah.

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