The word cancer in itself evokes fear in the mind of anyone. However, those who actually have to suffer through this, face a lot more. From the pain to the effects it has on your body as well as mental condition. For those who have had to get their breast removed as a result of the treatment, the breast reconstruction procedure is a great blessing.
Breast reconstruction surgery is done by a qualified plastic surgeon, to make sure that you get a breast that looks and feels as close to a natural one as possible. The procedure may involve more than one operation and you need to be fully aware about its details before making a decision to this effect. It is completely a personal choice, whether or not you want to go for the breast reconstruction procedure.
Make sure you speak to your oncologist as well as the plastic surgeon about the same and get the maximum information that you can. You may choose to go for it as it helps you to feel closer to your previous self or you may choose to completely avoid it, based on the information that your doctors provide.
Not everyone may be a good candidate for a breast reconstruction surgery, and those who are may have a lot of factors impacting the decision like
- The overall health, especially after your radiation treatments
- The health of the tissue where you will have the procedure
- The amount of tissue removed and left after your treatment
- Whether you have more treatment scheduled or your cancer treatment is over
- Your body shape and size
- The health, shape and size of the other, unaffected breast
Your doctor will consider all of these before recommending breast reconstruction to you. Having evaluated all of the above and some other parameters, the doctor will help you understand the types of breast reconstruction and choose the one that suits you. Here are the options that you may have
Delayed breast reconstruction – This is the type where the reconstruction is done after your cancer treatment is over. While your surgeon is best equipped to confirm the time you should wait before going for it, as a thumb rule, this can be undertaken 4-6 weeks after radiation or 3-4 weeks after chemotherapy. The reason this option is preferred is that it helps your body to heal and recover before undergoing the next operation. This also is beneficial for faster recovery. The breast reconstruction surgery may also be carried out months and years after cancer treatment.
Immediate breast reconstruction – As the name suggests, this is the type where the procedure is done when the surgery is being done for removal of the breast. The doctors consider this option only when they can ascertain if the procedure will not interfere with your ongoing cancer treatment.
Understanding the breast reconstruction method and procedure is as important as knowing its effect on your body and the recovery period. Make sure you speak to your doctor as well as the plastic surgery before the mastectomy, to gather as much information as you can.
While the reason to go for the surgery is to feel like you did earlier, it is important to understand and accept the fact that a reconstructed breast may never feel like the original, natural one. The primary reason for this is that the nerve responsible for sensations in the natural breast is generally cut as part of the surgery, restricting the feeling of the nipple and other tissues. Of course, over time, even the reconstructed breast may develop some sensation.
Another important fact to remember is that after reconstruction, the breast will not look exactly like the natural one and even the scars may be visible. They will fade with time but complete disappearance may not occur. Even the recovery of the tissue and becoming soft is a time consuming process and may take several months.
The best you can do after your breast reconstruction procedure is to follow your doctor’s instructions meticulously and keep them apprised of your recovery. You may not need to go for mammography of your reconstructed breast, but for the natural one you should get it done regularly.