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Can My Breasts Be Reconstructed at the Same Time as My Mastectomy?

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Breast reconstruction is performed to recreate a breast (or both breasts) after mastectomy. 

This concept is a topic that no woman ever wants to consider. However, it is a reality for far too many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Collection of women sitting together, wearing breast cancer ribbons on their shirts.

Going beyond the concerns of the diagnosis and treatment itself, many women are concerned about the time between the mastectomy and their reconstruction, a period during which they will have to see themselves without their breasts. 

This visual can be traumatizing as it presents a constant reminder of the fight they’ve had to go through, or are going through, plus of something very important that they have lost. 

Fortunately, in many circumstances, breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy. This is known as “immediate breast reconstruction.”

Is Breast Reconstruction Always Performed at the Same Time?

In many cases, breast reconstruction with implants is performed in a delayed fashion, beginning as soon as several months after the mastectomy. This allows for time to heal from the mastectomy as well as for ancillary treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. 

Delayed breast reconstruction involves several steps (and several appointments with your plastic surgeon) because it requires tissue expanders to be placed in the chest that are gradually inflated (expanded) over time. This expansion helps the skin and remaining tissues to stretch and grow so that they will be able to accommodate a more “permanent” implant.

This process can take several months. 

What Is Immediate Bilateral Breast Reconstruction?

Immediate breast reconstruction is when your mastectomy surgeon and plastic surgeon work during the same surgical setting to remove the affected breast(s) and to place the implant(s) or tissue expander(s). This approach may eliminate the need for tissue expanders if implants are chosen as the ultimate method of reconstruction and can reduce the overall number of surgical procedures required. 

A bilateral reconstruction simply means that both of the breasts are being reconstructed. Many women diagnosed with breast cancer choose to undergo a double mastectomy due to concerns that the cancer will subsequently develop in the other breast. 

Certain types of breast cancers, as well as genetic risk factors, are associated with an increased risk of cancer developing on the other side. 

Significantly, performing an immediate bilateral breast reconstruction often results in better breast symmetry than would otherwise be the case.

What Are the Benefits of Immediate Breast Reconstruction?

There are substantial benefits, both physical and emotional, to immediate reconstruction. First and foremost, it shortens the length of time between the initial surgery and the final result. This definitely helps many women emotionally. 

The importance of this emotional comfort cannot be overstated. 

In addition, fewer surgical treatments may be needed which reduces cumulative recuperative and down time that can include time off from work and leisure activities. 

Why Would Anyone Choose Delayed Reconstruction?

With significant benefits such as these, one may wonder why some women elect to undergo delayed reconstruction. 

There are a few quite valid reasons for this. 

First of all, it may not always be a choice or option. Many women do not qualify for immediate reconstruction for a variety of reasons. This could be due to the nature of the cancer itself or related to other patient medical issues. 

Then there are those women who may be emotionally overwhelmed by the news of having breast cancer and can’t truly decide if they want to go through with the breast reconstruction and deal with all the attendant issues, surgical procedures and potential significant risks.   

Some oncologic breast surgeons may have a greater preference for their patients to undergo delayed reconstruction versus immediate reconstruction. Consequently, the patient won’t see a plastic surgeon for reconstructive options until well after the mastectomy. 

Illustration showing before and after breast reconstruction.

What Do Breast Surgery Results Look Like?

If you are curious about potential breast surgery results, visit our breast surgery before and after photo gallery to see how Dr. Turkeltaub has helped our previous patients. 

Looking to Correct Breast Asymmetry After Breast Reconstruction?

If, after breast reconstruction, either immediate or delayed, significant asymmetries are present or the size or other issues are not quite to the patient’s liking, additional procedures may be possible to further improve the results. This could be determined in consultation with the plastic surgeon.

Ultimately, the goal is to obtain results that can allow each woman to feel more comfortable and confident with her body after cancer treatment.

If you have faced or are facing breast cancer and want to learn more about your reconstructive options, feel free to contact Dr. Turkeltaub at 480-451-3000 or fill our online form to schedule your consultation

We will help you find the approach that is right for you.