The Significance of Breast Reconstruction Surgery After A Mastectomy
A mastectomy is a surgery to remove part of or the entire breast. Surgeons recommend this procedure to patients with breast cancer to eliminate the affected part of the breast and thus prevent the spread of cancer to surrounding tissues. Rebuilding the shape of the removed breast is necessary for aesthetic purposes. Your best East Windsor, NJ breast reconstructive surgeon may rebuild the removed breast using saline or silicone implants or using tissue from elsewhere in the body.
Your doctor will develop your breast reconstruction procedure depending on your needs and preferences. For example, you can undergo immediate reconstruction during the mastectomy. However, you may need to wait until the mastectomy incisions have healed or after completing breast cancer therapy. Delayed reconstruction happens a few months after mastectomy.
What is involved during breast reconstruction using implants?
Your doctor will insert implants under the skin in the chest muscles after your mastectomy. The surgery to remove breast tumors involves a skin-sparing technique. Your surgeon will preserve the skin to help in breast reconstruction. Breast implants during reconstruction involve two steps:
- After consultation, your doctor will use a tissue expander under the skin left after your mastectomy. The expander will harbor saline solution, which your doctor will fill during follow-up visits.
- The next step involves removing and replacing the tissue expander with a breast implant. After your mastectomy, you will get your breast implant in the last two months.
What to expect during autologous tissue reconstruction
Autologous tissue reconstruction involves harvesting tissue from elsewhere in the body to rebuild the breast after a mastectomy. Doctors refer to this autologous tissue as a flap. Autologous tissue reconstruction will use flaps from specific sites in the body. The most common areas surgeons harvest autologous tissue from include the abdomen, back, thighs, and buttocks.
Your surgeon may pedicle the flap after harvesting, transporting the harvested tissue and attaching blood vessels through the body to the breast. Pedicling eliminates the need to connect blood vessels to the breast tissue because the vascular system is left intact during tissue harvesting.
Your doctor may also use free flaps to rebuild breast tissue after mastectomy. Free flaps are detached from their blood supply. These flaps require your surgeon to attach new blood vessels to the breast area.
What to expect during nipple and areola reconstruction
Reconstructing the nipple and areola happens after breast reconstruction is complete and the chest has healed. Your surgeon will also confirm that the rebuilt breast position is stable. Creating a new nipple involves cutting small pieces of the reconstructed breast and shaping them into a desired shape. Recreating the areola will happen a few months after nipple reconstruction and involves tattoo ink. Alternatively, your surgeon may harvest skin grafts from the groin or abdomen during nipple reconstruction and use them to recreate your areola.
If you do not wish to undergo nipple reconstruction, your doctor may recommend getting a 3D image of a nipple tattooed on your reconstructed breast. Contact Matthew J. Lynch, MD Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, to receive the appropriate breast reconstruction recommendations after your mastectomy and restore desired shape and size to your breasts.