Planning for a mastectomy can lead some women to worry about looking scarred or uneven after surgery. The good news is that breast reconstruction has come a long way over the years. Not only can women receive breast reconstruction at the same time as a mastectomy, the options give women the opportunity to feel the same or even better than they did before.
Derek L. Masden, MD, chief of Plastic Surgery at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC), answers a few common questions.
Can I have breast reconstruction at the same time as my mastectomy?
Yes, you can have them at the same time. A few years ago, you would have had to come back after the mastectomy for final reconstructive surgery. Today, you can have everything taken care of at one time. This means one trip to the operating room, one trip home and one recovery period.
What are flap procedures?
A flap procedure is when tissue from other parts of your body, such as the abdomen or back, is used to rebuild the shape of your breast. This is often considered more natural-feeling than implants. Keep in mind that these newly reconstructed breasts tend to age the same way as natural breast.
If radiation treatment is part of my plan, should I have the surgery before or after radiation?
That depends on the type of reconstruction. If you plan to have implants, I recommend getting radiation after the placement of the final implant. If you plan to have a flap procedure, I recommend that you undergo radiation prior to your flap.
What are the risks?
There are some risks that come with any surgery, such as bleeding, infection, and poor healing. With the flap procedure, there is a chance that the flap will not work and you may experience complications such as wound healing at both the donor (i.e.: tummy or back) and reconstruction (breast) site. For those who choose implants, there is a chance the implant could become infected or need to be removed. The vast majority of women who choose reconstructive surgery will not experience these situations, but it is always important to understand any potential complications.
What results should I expect?
My goal when performing reconstructive surgery is to give the patient an opportunity to feel and look like themselves after cancer treatment. Many women of all ages choose reconstructive surgery because it makes them feel complete. In some cases, women who have always considered implants will get implants during reconstructive surgery. For those who have always thought about a reduction, I can perform a reduction that will reduce chronic neck and back pain. The bottom line is, if you need a mastectomy, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your reconstructive options so you can make the decision that will give you the best possible outcome.