Breast Reconstruction Gives Breast Cancer Survivors a Shot at Normalcy
The risk of breast cancer for women in America at some point in your life is 13%. The natural and most effective cause of treatment for most cancers, including breast cancer, is to excise the infected tissue, mastectomy or lumpectomy and follow up with suitable therapy.
Most women choose to have breast reconstruction after breast cancer treatment. The main goal of breast reconstruction is to restore a natural-looking breast mound.
What Is Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery procedure performed to recreate the breast or breasts after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. A mastectomy or lumpectomy is a procedure performed on women or men suffering from breast cancer, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy or radiation, to cure and halt the spread of cancer cells. The procedure can be performed on one or both breasts.
You can get your breast reconstructed using breast implants or tissue from another part of your body, including the abdomen or thigh. Breast reconstruction is different for every breast cancer patient, which is why you need to consult multiple plastic surgeons to get multiple perspectives about your unique journey. Don’t forget to always keep your oncologist in the loop.
Is Breast Reconstruction Mandatory?
Breast reconstruction surgery is not a mandatory surgery. Some women may choose to have the procedure done as soon as the mastectomy/lumpectomy is done, while others choose never to get it done. The patient should make the decision to get a breast reconstruction without external manipulation because it is an extremely personal decision.
How Much Does Breast Reconstruction Cost?
Breast reconstruction costs in the United States can cost between $5,000 and $15,000 per breast, depending on the extent of the damage done by cancer and the medical personnel performing the procedure. Fortunately, by law, this is covered by your health insurance.
What Happens During a Breast Reconstruction Procedure?
Breast reconstruction surgery is done in a hospital under anesthesia, so you will not feel any pain or discomfort. If you have implants placed, your surgeon will situate them and make sure they are well placed. If you choose a flap procedure, the surgeon will take tissue from one part of your body to design and create a new breast.
After the surgeon has closed the incision, a tube may be placed out of the operation site to help the wound drain and heal faster. After this, the plastic surgeon will place bandages over the incisions to keep them clean and prevent infection.
Recovery From Breast Reconstruction
You may feel sore, swollen, and uncomfortable for the first two weeks after the breast reconstruction. You may also have limited mobility, depending on whether you had the procedure on one or both breasts. Your doctor will prescribe medication to manage the pain and discomfort.
Breast Reconstruction Q&A
As a breast cancer patient, what are my breast reconstruction options?
If you have previously had a mastectomy, there are three ways you and your surgeon can approach the creation of a breast mound.
- Using implants
- Your own body tissue
- A combined approach
Most mastectomy reconstructions use implants, a two-step surgical process.
Will breast reconstruction be painful?
Breast reconstruction is a significant surgical procedure, so you can expect some level of discomfort or pain. However, all this can be managed by wearing the right garment for support and taking pain management medication.
What are the health risks of reconstruction and breast expansion?
The most common health risks and complications include:
- Implant infection
- Pain and tightness
- The need to replace the implants
There is also a one in 30,000 chance that breast reconstruction patients that get an implant can get breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma. This only happens in extremely rare cases.
Will my health insurance cover breast reconstruction surgery?
The law dictates that your health insurance provider covers the cost of breast reconstruction. This is stipulated in the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act passed in 1998. Don’t forget to get a second opinion on your breast reconstruction options.
When should I opt for breast reconstruction surgery?
Some women will have decided to have breast reconstruction during their mastectomy, as discussed with their doctors. This is why it is important to have a good team working with you to advise you on the vital decisions that need to be made.
Depending on your cancer treatment (including whether or not you are undergoing radiation), you may not be a candidate for immediate reconstruction.
Other women opt to wait a while. This may be a personal choice, or it may be because the woman is not a suitable candidate at the time of the surgery. Some reasons why you may not be a good candidate include being a smoker presently or in the past because of the progression of cancer and certain medications you may be on.