Breast reconstruction is a broad term used to describe surgical procedures developed by plastic surgeons to reconstruct the female breast after breast cancer treatment. During breast cancer treatment, patients will have a surgery that removes all or a portion of the breast. The nipple and areola may also be removed during the cancer treatment. Immediately after the breast cancer surgery, the plastic surgeon may reconstruct the breast using implants, expanders, or the patient’s own abdominal tissue to rebuild the breast. The goal of breast reconstruction surgery is to recreate a breast and restore the female breast in form, to achieve symmetry of the bilateral breasts. Additionally, the goal of breast reconstruction surgery is to improve a patient’s self-image and self-confidence after breast cancer treatment.
Breast reconstruction surgery encompasses a wide range of procedures. The procedures range from fat transfer to the breast, direct implant placement, tissue expander and implant placement and flap reconstruction with the patient’s own tissue.
If you have had breast cancer treatment and have asymmetries of the breast, you may be a good candidate for breast reconstruction surgery. Patients should be in overall good health and not be actively smoking.
A breast reconstruction can also help to correct:
- Breast asymmetries after breast cancer treatment
- Absent breast after mastectomy surgery
- Absent nipple and areola after breast cancer treatment
If any of these factors apply to you, you may be a good candidate for a breast reconstruction. Ideal candidates should be in generally favorable health and non-smokers.
At the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago, we understand that decreased self-image and confidence can affect more than just the perception of oneself, but quality of life as well. The motivations for breast reconstruction can be varied, but our goal is to help each patient both look and feel like the best version of themselves.
During a consultation at our practice, a board-certified plastic surgeon, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, will discuss your reconstructive goals and review your medical history to ensure that you are a good candidate for a breast reconstruction. Be prepared to discuss any past surgeries and other medical issues related to your breasts.
The plastic surgeon will examine your upper body and take measurements of your breasts for size, shape, skin quality, and nipple position. Photographs are usually taken at this stage so that your plastic surgeon can perform a full evaluation and work with you to determine the best course of treatment to reach your ideal reconstructive goals.
If you have any questions about results, recovery, potential risks, or any other factors, the consultation is the best time to discuss these with your plastic surgeon.
There are many techniques available for breast reconstruction. For patients with small asymmetries of the breast, for example from a lumpectomy procedure, fat grafting is an option. In this procedure, fat is taken from one site and transferred to the deficient area of the breast to restore volume and symmetry. For patients who have had a mastectomy, the breast can be reconstructed with an implant or the patient’s own tissue. When an implant based reconstruction is chosen, in certain situations, the implant is placed immediately to reconstruct the breast. In other situations, a balloon like device or tissue expander has to be placed to expand the breast skin to accommodate an implant. An alternative option is using the patient’s abdominal tissue to rebuild and reconstruct the breast without the use of an implant. This option is the most complex and requires a longer hospital stay.
After the mastectomy procedure is performed by the breast surgeon, your plastic surgeon will then reconstruct the breast with an expander or implant. Sometimes, a biologic tissue substitute is placed to help support the implant and breast skin during the reconstruction. If the patient has opted for a reconstruction using one’s own tissue, then abdominal tissue is used to rebuild or reconstruct the breast (DIEP flap). During this procedure, the abdominal tissue is transplanted to the chest with its own artery and vein. A microscope and suture smaller than a human hair is used to put the artery and vein back together. Once the reconstruction is performed, drains may be placed and the incisions are closed. For implant based reconstructions, the patient may stay in the hospital for a few days. For the flap based reconstruction, the patient may stay in the hospital for 5-7 days.
Swelling and bruising of the breasts and incision sites are normal in the weeks following the procedure. Usually an elastic bandage or support bra is necessary to maintain support while the breasts heal. A drain may be placed at the incision sites after surgery to remove any excess fluid.
Your plastic surgeon will prescribe pain medication and issue post-surgical care instructions to ensure a safe recovery. You should avoid any rigorous exercise or exertion until your doctor clears you to return to your normal level of activity.
There are known risks and potential complications associated with breast reconstruction surgery. Risks commonly associated with breast reconstruction may include:
- Hematoma (blood clot)
- Implant related infection
- Loss of flap
- Fluid accumulation
- Breast asymmetry
The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago takes every measure to minimize risk by using only the safest, most innovative techniques in aesthetic and reconstructive breast surgery. You can also reduce potential complications by carefully following all instructions from your plastic surgeon, both before and after the procedure.
Health insurance carriers will cover the cost of breast reconstruction surgery and therefore the out of pocket cost to you the patient depends on the individual health plan. Be sure to speak with your health insurance carrier about all associated costs prior to your consultation and surgery.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are interested in breast reconstruction surgery, call the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago to schedule a consultation. A board-certified plastic surgeon will speak with you about your reconstructive and aesthetic goals and discuss all treatment options available.
All surgical procedures by the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Chicago are performed at top hospitals in Chicago and CMS or AAAASF-certified surgical centers for safety.