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The diagnosis of breast cancer and the prospect of surgical removal of the breast is an emotionally traumatic event for women. Breasts are important to women both physically and emotionally, and many women experience a loss of femininity or lack of completeness after mastectomy.
Fortunately, new techniques and technology have advanced the field of breast reconstruction such that plastic and reconstructive surgeons are able to create a new breast that very closely matches the opposite natural breast. There are a variety of surgical options that can be performed either at the time of mastectomy or at a later date. These options include tissue expansion and implant placement as well as use of the body’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast (flap reconstruction), or a combination of both.
The best form of reconstruction will depend on individual patient characteristics and desires, but you can watch a video on how a typical breast reconstruction is performed.
Post mastectomy reconstruction wtih tissue expander is a staged approach to reconstruction and can be started at the time of the mastectomy or at a later date.
Often, the first step of this reconstruction is placing the expander underneath the skin and muscle. The expander has a fill port that is built into the front of the device. The port will be accessed in the office typically every 1-2 weeks with addition saline added at each visit. Generally discomfort is mild and can be managed with Tylenol.
After the skin and muscle over the tissue expander have expanded enough to form a pocket to house the implant, the expander will be removed and replaced with an implant, creating a more refined breast shape. This procedure is done as an outpatient procedure and generally takes about 1-2 hours.
Breast reconstruction using your own tissue to form a new breast is referred to as autologous, or flap reconstruction. These procedures use tissue from your abdomen, back, thighs or buttocks to rebuild the breast. The most common type of tissue flap procedure is the TRAM flap with the latissimus dorsi flap procedure being a secondary choice.