Reconstructive surgery answers a patient’s more subtle need or desire to regain what cancer took away. It is often the final step in the fight against breast cancer, following mastectomy or lumpectomy and various other therapies. If you find yourself – as thousands of women – contemplating the pros and cons of breast reconstruction, there are certain factors you may need to consider.
Asking The Right Questions
The unique lifestyles and conditions of each individual can greatly affect the steps taken during reconstruction and the subsequent recovery. Even before consulting with your surgeon, you should ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is having a permanent breast shape important to you?
Breast implants and tissue flaps last for years, if not permanently; breast remade with fat grafts may require additional injections every few years to maintain their size and shape.
2. Is it important that both your breasts appear balanced in a swimsuit if you undergo a mastectomy on just one breast?
The goal of breast reconstruction is to rebuild your breasts to be as close to your old ones as possible while maintaining your body’s form and proportions. Tiny adjustments may be required to achieve this, so you must be clear about your desired outcome with your doctor.
3. Do your needs require several breast reconstruction surgeries over a long period of time?
This generally applies to women who have late-stage cancer and need additional surgeries to fully remove any tumors. However, this may also be a consideration for BRCA-positive survivors, as they have a higher chance than normal of breast cancer relapse. Getting rid of new tumors requires the removal of an already-present implant, and therefore another surgery to reconstruct the breast again.
4. Is remaining physically active after surgery important to you?
Undergoing a few sessions of radiotherapy before reconstruction may be required to get rid of any remaining cancer cells. In addition, full recovery from breast reconstruction can take several months. Make sure to schedule time away from work accordingly. You and your surgeon will devise a schedule that fits all your needs.
5. How expensive is breast reconstruction surgery?
All procedures related to breast cancer, including mastectomy and breast reconstruction, must be covered by all health insurance providers as stated under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998.
6. Are you an athlete, or do you have a physically demanding job?
Answering ‘yes’ may mean your body has more muscle and less fat built up around the chest area, which must be taken into account by your surgeon. A well-built or slim figure may not be compatible with certain types of reconstruction techniques.
7. Did undergoing a lumpectomy affect the original shape of your breasts?
Inform your surgeon if your breast shape changed dramatically after lumpectomy. They can take steps to customize your reconstruction to address any aesthetic and balance issues.
8. Do you have any other medical conditions that might affect your ability to heal?
You must be open about your medical history during the consultation. Doing so will allow your physician to mitigate any possible risk without compromising your health and your results.
Consultation with a Surgeon is Still a Priority
With all the above questions in mind, you are now ready for your consultation. A board-certified plastic surgeon has the necessary expertise and experience to answer any question and allay the fears you may have.
A self-evaluation at the start of it all will go a long way towards a smoother and better experience. Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be a scary period of your life, but we will be there to support you from the beginning to end!