After a mastectomy, women may feel thankful their battle with cancer is over and look forward to enjoying a long life. But as this new chapter of life unfolds, there are several decisions to make concerning how to address the aesthetic consequences of their successful treatment. First, whether to have breast reconstruction surgery or not is a major decision. If you choose to have your breasts restored, you will want to find a surgeon that will help you understand all of your options and who is skilled and experienced in the fine art of breast reconstruction, which requires a different skill set than other breast procedures.
Once you’ve decided to move forward with reconstruction and found the right surgeon, you can expect to feel empowered to make several decisions that will impact how you look and feel in your body. Here, Dr. Zochowski outlines the major decisions you will have as collaboratively design your breast reconstruction with your surgeon.
As with many other decisions, timing is everything with breast reconstruction surgery. Immediate or delayed reconstruction is a topic your surgeon will discuss before your mastectomy. Many women choose immediate reconstruction if possible because it brings them closer to normality once their breast removal surgery is complete. However, this choice is not always possible when additional cancer treatment is necessary after breast tissue is removed. One thing to remember, whether you choose delayed or immediate reconstruction, they both be successful in achieving your desired results.
2. Reconstruction Base
Patients will need to choose between two forms of breast reconstruction surgery: Flap-based or Implant-based reconstruction. Here’s a brief explanation of both:
If your cancer treatment did not leave sufficient tissue on the chest wall to support and cover breast implants, your surgeon might decide to use a flap-based (your tissue) reconstruction technique to create a pocket for the implant. With this method, immediate reconstruction is not possible.
If there is enough tissue as a result of a skin-sparing mastectomy, then your surgeon can create a pocket without using tissue from another part of your body. With this technique, immediate reconstruction is possible and often chosen.
3. Nipple Replacement
Another decision to be made is nipple replacement. The first choice is to have the nipple replaced or not. Whatever your decision, you have time to choose. Your surgeon will not rebuild the nipple until after the reconstructed breast has time to heal. Options for nipple reconstruction include elevating existing tissue, donor tissue, or medical tattooing.
4. Scar Placement
Hiding the scars post-mastectomy is a skill, and some would say a form of creative art. Scar placement may range from your breasts to your back, inner thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. Of course, scarring in areas outside the breast is a result of flap-based reconstruction when it is necessary to harvest tissue from a donor site elsewhere on the body. Immediate reconstruction will create less scarring. You will want to discuss what to expect in terms of scarring with your surgeon during your consultation. While your surgeon will likely have recommendations about where to place incisions, you might be surprised to find that you have some choices to make about your scars.
5. Your Surgeon
When it comes to choosing the surgeon to reconstruct your breasts, there is only one type of physician that fits this bill. You should only interview board-certified plastic and reconstruction surgeons who have extensive experience in breast and reconstructive surgeries. If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area, you can do no better than Dr. Christopher Zochowski.
If you want to learn more about breast reconstruction surgery and require a surgeon that offers extensive experience and expertise, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Zochowski would like to talk to you.