Breast Reconstruction Surgery in Columbus, OH
For cancer survivors, breast reconstruction surgery can be an emotionally transformative experience. Breast reconstruction helps women reclaim a sense of physical autonomy by putting visible reminders of their illness in the past. It also allows for greater versatility in clothing choices and eliminates the need to wear a cumbersome and uncomfortable prosthesis. If your breasts have been damaged by cancer, breast reconstruction can help you take the final step towards complete healing.
Breast Reconstruction: Your Options Explained
Breast reconstruction surgery is much more complex than standard breast augmentation. This procedure often involves multiple operations and patients will have several important decisions to weigh during their consultation.
The Timing of Your Procedure
Depending on your health status, you may be given the option of having either an immediate or a delayed breast reconstruction. An immediate breast reconstruction will be performed at the same time you have your mastectomy, whereas a delayed breast reconstruction will be performed after you’ve healed from mastectomy surgery. Some patients prefer immediate reconstruction because it means they will be closer to their restored self without long delays for healing.
Immediate reconstruction is not always an option for patients who must undergo further cancer therapy (i.e., chemotherapy or radiotherapy) after having a mastectomy. Immediate and delayed reconstruction are equally successful in achieving successful results.
Patients also need to choose between the two most common forms of breast reconstruction surgery: Implant-based reconstruction and “flap-based” reconstruction. Implant-based reconstruction involves the use of silicone or saline breast implants to fill out the breast pocket.
When the patient has had a skin-sparing mastectomy, it’s usually possible to insert the final implant directly into the breast pocket. This lets patients have one single, convenient reconstruction surgery. However, it’s not always possible to conserve most of the patient’s breast skin while still aggressively treating her cancer. If you need to have a significant portion of skin removed, you’ll be fitted with a special adjustable saline implant (called a tissue expander) when you choose to begin the reconstruction process.
Over the weeks following your first surgery, you will have appointments to evaluate your healing progress and begin the gradual expansion of the expander implant (via the insertion of more saline). This causes the remaining skin to gradually stretch, making room for the final implant. Note that if you need to have radiation therapy, you may be able to have the expander placed during your mastectomy, but it will be left uninflated until your therapy is complete.
Flap-based breast reconstruction, on the other hand, requires the removal of a flap of skin (usually taken from either the back or the stomach, but removal from other sites is possible). This flap of skin is used to create a new breast pocket, which is then filled with either an implant or fatty tissue taken from the patient. Flap-based breast reconstruction is ideally suited to patients who have lost a great deal of breast tissue, but it requires more recovery time.
This technique also cannot be performed at the same time as mastectomy, so it’s not recommended for patients who want to have immediate breast reconstruction. Still, this method is not without its advantages: Some patients choose to combine this type of surgery with another form of body sculpting, like tummy tuck surgery. This allows them to shape their physique while undergoing breast reconstruction surgery.
If you have stubborn fat deposits on your stomach or back, or loose skin left over from pregnancy or weight loss, flap-based reconstruction might be right for you. Flap-based breast reconstruction is also the best choice for women who have naturally large breasts, as it allows for the creation of a bigger breast pocket. (Tissue expanders have a limited ability to stretch the skin.)
Once your reconstructed breasts have healed, you’ll have the opportunity to also have your nipples reconstructed (if needed). New nipples are usually formed using a small flap of skin, then colored via micropigmentation. Though reconstructed nipples lack sensation, they can provide a more natural appearance of the breasts.
Schedule a Private Consultation
If you’re in the Columbus area and have any questions or wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Christopher Zochowski, please contact our office today.
What to Expect During Breast Reconstruction Recovery
Breast reconstruction recovery time varies depending on what type of procedure you have. For implant-based procedures, the average hospital stay lasts between one to two days. Full recovery takes between three to four weeks. For flap-based procedures, the average hospital stay is about five days, and complete healing takes six to eight weeks. Though soreness usually decreases after the first week or two, you’ll have to modify your activities throughout the duration of your healing period. Taking two to three weeks off of work and avoiding all strenuous activities for four or more weeks will be necessary.
Dr. Zochowski is committed to providing thorough one-on-one follow up appointments, so you can rest assured that he’ll be there to help you throughout your healing process. He will also work closely with your medical team to ensure that all of your needs – medical and cosmetic – are being met.
Starting Your Breast Reconstruction Journey in Columbus, OH
Due to the complex nature of breast reconstruction, it’s extremely important to select a board certified plastic surgeon who has extensive experience performing this procedure. Look for a surgeon who, like Dr. Zochowski, has a background in reconstructive (and not just aesthetic) plastic surgery.
Likewise, you should always ask to see a portfolio of “before and after” pictures showcasing breast reconstructions your surgeon has performed in the past. If you have already had an unsatisfactory experience with another surgeon, Dr. Zochowski can help you. He regularly performs breast reconstruction revisions for patients who need corrective work done.
Patients should also note that breast reconstruction surgery is usually covered by medical insurance. Dr. Zochowski accepts many major medical insurance plans, so financing your procedure should not be an issue.
When you come in for a consultation, Dr. Zochowski and his knowledgeable staff will help you understand and navigate your financial, medical, and aesthetic options. Providing comprehensive and compassionate care in a personalized setting is a top priority at Zochowski Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. We strive to establish lasting relationships with our patients. If you’re currently undergoing cancer care, or you’ve had a mastectomy in the past, contact Dr. Zochowski to book a consultation in Columbus, Ohio. Our practice looks forward to becoming a trusted part of your care team.