What is BR?

Breast reconstruction is an increasingly common surgical procedure performed by a plastic surgeon in order to restore a woman’s breast to its desired shape and size after a mastectomy.

With advances in breast reconstruction surgery, more and more women are choosing to have their breasts rebuilt. It’s both a physically and an emotionally rewarding procedure, and has become an integral part of breast cancer treatment. But restoration after cancer treatment doesn’t necessarily mean surgery. For some women it may be as simple as just wearing an external prosthesis or a form-fitted bra. Surgery is one option among several.

Based on your cancer treatment plan, reconstruction can be performed either at the same time as a mastectomy or a few months or even years afterwards. However, although breast reconstruction is considered an integral part of the healing and recovery process, it isn’t appropriate for everyone. Reconstruction should never interfere with or complicate your breast cancer treatment.

While the reconstruction won’t recreate the exact look and feel of your natural breast, when wearing a bra the breasts should be alike enough in size and shape that you’ll feel comfortable about how you look in most types of clothes.

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Various techniques are used to restore your breast to a near-normal shape, appearance and size, including breast implant, using tissue taken from another part of your body, or a combination of both. Your plastic surgeon will advise you on the type of reconstruction that’s most suitable for you.

The reconstruction usually involves more than one operation. If desired, the nipple and areola can also be reconstructed. A new nipple usually requires a separate operation a few months after the reconstructive surgery. This allows the reconstructed breast to settle into its final shape. Which exact procedure is best for you will depend on your age, general health, size and shape of the other breast, and available body tissue.

If only one breast is affected, the single breast may be reconstructed. In addition, your surgeon may recommend a breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation for the other breast to improve the symmetry of both breasts.

Women who have part of their breast removed (via lumpectomy) usually don’t need a full breast reconstruction. But if the appearance of the breast isn’t right after the lumpectomy, surgical techniques can be used to help improve the breast shape.

It’s important to also be clear that a reconstructed breast will never look or feel exactly the same as the original breast, and some women aren’t happy with reconstruction.

It’s vital to know that:

A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast it replaces.

There will always be visible incision lines, whether from reconstruction or mastectomy.

Certain surgical techniques will leave incision lines at the donor site, commonly located in less exposed areas of the body such as the back, abdomen or buttocks.

You and those close to you need to know what to expect from reconstruction. Talk about the benefits and risks of reconstruction with your doctors before the surgery is planned.