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What is a Breast Reconstruction and Why Should I Consider It?

Breast Reconstruction is the process of recreating a woman's breast with the use of implants or their own tissue. In this discussion, we'll be focusing specifically on women who have had one or both breasts removed due to breast cancer.

Breast cancer is already a scary ordeal for most patients on its own. Often, because of the need to remove the entire breast with a mastectomy surgery, patients are left feeling incomplete and not fully feminine. Breast reconstruction can help patients feel whole and live their lives confidently again.


Did you know that insurance companies are required to offer you breast reconstruction?

How Do I Get Started?

If you have had your breasts removed already, then you should seek out a Board Certified or Board Eligible Plastic Surgeon within your health insurance network for a consultation. If you are in the process of discussing a mastectomy with your breast cancer surgeon, he or she may refer you to a plastic surgeon that they work with closely.

Your plastic surgeon can often start the reconstructive process at the same time as the initial surgery to remove your breasts. This is beneficial because you won't have any portion of this journey where you feel like you are completely missing your breasts. However, the ability to start the reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy depends on a few factors that your surgeon and cancer team will discuss with you.

What are the Different Kinds of Breast Reconstruction?

Although there are many different procedures and types of breast reconstruction possible today, we will talk about them in two general categories:

        1. Implant-based breast reconstruction (using breast implants) and
        2. Autologous breast reconstruction (using your own tissue)

We will discuss the differences of each here briefly, but you can learn more about the specifics of each procedure through the links above.

Implant-based reconstruction will either involve placing a breast implant immediately after the mastectomy or, more commonly, placing a tissue expander after the mastectomy. The tissue expander gets filled with saline over several months to expand your tissue before switching it out for an implant.

Implant-based reconstruction generally requires more total procedures during your lifetime, but each procedure is relatively smaller and easier to recover from compared to autologous reconstruction. Your sequence of procedures may look like the following:

        • Tissue expander placement
        • Tissue expander filling (in clinic over several weeks to months)
        • Exchange tissue expander for implants
        • Fat grafting
        • Nipple and areolar reconstruction
        • Implant revisions or exchanges

Breast implants require maintenance throughout your lifetime including replacement every 10 years. The nice part about each step is that the surgery is usually relative quick (2-3 hours) and the recovery time is fairly short (2 weeks or less).

It is important to note that breast implants currently only go up to 800 cc in size. For some patients, this may not provide adequate volume to restore their prior shape. Currently, larger implants ranging up to 1200 cc or even 1600 cc are being tested and may become available for the public at some point.

Autologous breast reconstruction generally requires a much longer surgery initially with a much tougher recovery, but less procedures are needed through the remainder of your life. The surgery itself has more risks, and so patients must be generally healthy. There is less risk of infection overall because no prosthetics are used.

Your sequence of procedures may look like the following:

        • Autologous breast reconstruction surgery (TRAM, DIEP, etc.)
        • Breast Revision as needed
        • Nipple and areolar reconstruction

What If I'm Having Trouble Making a Decision?

Breast Reconstruction can be a very daunting process with many factors to consider. Dr. Nguyen will discuss all of your options in detail with you. However, it may be difficult to absorb so much information at once, so we encourage you to equip yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Spend some time reading each of the resources below:

Additionally, take the time to search online for other sources of information. Once you've gathered as much as you can, it will make it easier to compile questions and discuss things in more detail at your consultation.


We wish you the best, and we will be praying for you on your journey. God Bless!


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