For many women diagnosed with breast cancer or facing a high risk of developing breast cancer, a mastectomy is often the safest preventative surgical measure. During mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast in an attempt to cleanly remove the entire afflicted area from the body. This is a considerable procedure that can take a drastic physical and emotional toll. Even if the mastectomy is a success and the patient is now cancer-free, it is common for women to be left subsequently feeling vulnerable and anxious about giving up a part of her body.
Thankfully breast reconstruction surgery, a procedure I’ve been performing for over 20 years, provides those who have gone through a mastectomy the option to restore and rebuild their breasts. During reconstruction, the surgeon creates a breast shape using an artificial implant or a flap of tissue from another place on your body or both. The goal of the procedure is to replace the breast, or portions of the breast, that were removed during mastectomy and create a new breast that appears natural and proportional to the patient’s body. The final results of breast reconstruction can help lessen the physical and emotional impact of breast cancer and help the patient get back to living their normal, pre-cancer life.
Techniques for breast reconstruction have advanced dramatically in the last several years due to enhanced research and technological breakthroughs in the field. Below I will outline a few recent developments in the world of mastectomy and breast reconstruction in hopes of providing some piece of mind to those considering these procedures.
Nipple-sparing mastectomy is a relatively new mastectomy technique. The procedure preserves the skin around the breast and nipple areola. Only the underlying breast tissue is removed. When combined with immediate breast reconstruction, nipple-sparing mastectomy can provide superior cosmetic results without compromising cancer treatment. This technique is also helpful in avoiding additional steps like nipple reconstruction and tattooing.
Breast Reconstruction with Implants
Breast Implant reconstruction can be performed either at the time of mastectomy or during a later procedure. In certain situations, if a woman chooses an implant, a balloon-like device called an expander is implanted into the chest area. The expander is filled with fluid periodically over a span of several weeks, gradually stretching the skin and making space for the eventual implant. Finally, the expander is removed and replaced with a permanent silicone implant
Breast Reconstruction with Muscle-Sparing TRAM Flap
This method uses fatty tissue from the body and skin from the lower abdomen without the need for an implant and with an added benefit of a tummy tuck. When a patient qualifies to have the muscle-sparing free TRAM flap, the lower abdominal fat and skin is used and transferred to the chest area and shaped into a new breast. Often times, the newly reconstructed breast has a more up-lifted appearance, leading to women requesting a reshape or breast lift of the opposite breast.
As always, I am more than happy to provide a comprehensive consultation to answer any additional questions and establish a treatment plan to help guide you in your breast cancer journey.