Breast Reconstruction after Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Common Questions & Answers

Where do I begin after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be scary and overwhelming. You will likely meet with a Breast Surgeon and a Medical Oncologist. During those visits, you will discuss the type of cancer and treatment for the cancer. During this stage, you may be offered to discuss breast reconstruction options with a Plastic Surgeon. You can also ask your provider to refer you to a Plastic Surgeon. Once you meet with a Plastic Surgeon you will discuss your goals and different breast reconstruction options. Your treatment team will then discuss the next steps in your treatment timeline.

What is breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a term used to describe rebuilding the breast after a woman undergoes treatment for breast cancer. There are many options for breast reconstruction and the type of reconstruction depends on patient goals and desires. Some women do not want reconstruction and choosing no reconstruction “going flat” is an option. Shared decision-making between patient and Plastic Surgeon is essential.

Types of breast reconstruction

There are many different types of breast reconstruction. A breast can be reconstructed using breast implants that are made from saline or silicone. Another option is using the patient’s own tissues (autologous) to reconstruct the breast. Common sites of donor tissue are from the abdomen, back or thighs.

What if I have a partial mastectomy (lumpectomy)?

There are options offered to women who undergo lumpectomy. Depending on the location of the tumor and size of the breast, some women may be candidates for a partial mastectomy. Surgery can be performed to enhance breast shape and size or reduce large breasts at the time of lumpectomy.

Who is a good candidate for breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a highly individualized procedure. Patient’s should consider all options and decide based on what they want to achieve. Most patients are candidates for breast reconstruction. However, some patients with advanced cancer, certain medical conditions, or active smokers may not be candidates for breast reconstruction.

What is breast revision surgery?

Breast revision surgery is a procedure that occurs after initial breast reconstruction surgery to help enhance aesthetic outcome. Common procedures are fat grafting to the breast to help achieve better symmetry. Other procedures include exchanging implants or repositioning implants. Also, nipple and areolar reconstruction can be performed.

What about my other breast?

Symmetry procedures can be performed on the other non-cancer breast at the same time as mastectomy or at a later time. Patients may need different surgeries depending on breast size and shape and desires. Common procedures include breast lift, breast reduction, implant placement or fat grafting.

Timing of breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy (total removal of breast) or it can be done at a later time, months or years later. One surgery or multiple surgeries may be necessary to achieve the results the patient desires.

Can I still have breast reconstruction if I need chemotherapy or radiation?

Yes, most patients are still candidates for breast reconstruction if chemotherapy or radiation is needed to treat the cancer. The timing of surgery and type of surgery offered may be different if chemotherapy or radiation is planned.

Will insurance cover my breast reconstruction?

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act is a federal law passed in 1998 that requires all group health plans that cover mastectomies to also provide coverage for reconstruction surgery as well as other post-mastectomy benefits (such as external breast prosthesis). Breast reconstruction surgery after breast cancer is considered a reconstructive procedure and should be covered by health insurance. However, your coverage may only provide a portion of the total fee. Be sure to consult with your insurance company in advance of any surgery.

For more information about breast reconstruction contact Thibodaux Regional Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Clinic, 985.493.4490.