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Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Innovations in breast reconstruction have greatly improved the results women can achieve following breast cancer surgery. Surgeons at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center perform the most advanced tissue flap, fat grafting and implant procedures. Breast reconstruction can help you with body image concerns and promote your well-being during your cancer recovery.

If you’re considering breast reconstruction, please know we are dedicated to providing each breast cancer patient with an individualized treatment plan and support throughout their recovery process. Make an appointment for a breast reconstruction consultation with Banner MD Anderson’s expert plastic surgeons.

What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Following surgery for breast cancer and depending upon the type of breast cancer surgery, you may choose to have your breast(s) reconstructed. While you don’t have to have reconstruction, many women report that reconstructive surgery provides higher levels of self-esteem and emotional healing following breast surgery.

During reconstructive surgery, a plastic surgeon recreates all or part of a breast that has been removed or corrects misshapen breasts. The goal is to help improve self-image, with breasts that look natural and balanced when wearing clothes.

With improved treatments, breast reconstruction techniques and new medical devices, breast cancer patients who want reconstruction have many options that offer good results. There are several types of breast reconstruction that include using an implant, using your own tissue—often from your abdomen or back tissue—or a combination of the two. Sometimes, you may be able to have breast reconstruction at the same time as your breast cancer surgery (immediate). Other times, you may need or want to wait (delayed).

Federal law requires that breast reconstruction, in addition to other post-mastectomy benefits, be covered by medical insurance.

What’s the Difference Between Breast Reconstructive Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery?

Reconstructive surgery repairs body parts impacted by illness, injury or defect. The word “reconstructive” refers to rebuilding a part of the body after it was damaged or destroyed.

On the other hand, cosmetic surgery is performed to enhance a normally functioning part of the body with the goal of changing the outward appearance.

As an example, getting breast implants with the goal of making clothes fit better would be considered cosmetic surgery. However, getting implants to rebuild one or more breasts after a mastectomy constitutes a reconstructive surgery.

This distinction is important because many insurance companies may cover reconstructive surgeries but may not cover cosmetic surgeries.

Plastic surgery in a cancer setting is not cosmetic, and it may fix a post-procedure deformity, so we recommend discussing it with your doctor.

Who Gets Breast Reconstruction?

If you’ve had breast cancer surgery, you may be a candidate for breast reconstruction. This includes women who have had or will have a:

  • Mastectomy (surgical removal of a breast)
  • Breast conservation surgery such as a partial mastectomy or lumpectomy (partial removal of tumor and breast tissue)
  • Prophylactic mastectomy based on known high-risk gene mutations (removal of non-cancerous breast to prevent cancer)

What Is the Recovery Like for Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is major surgery that can require several days in the hospital, followed by weeks of recovery at home. The length of recovery depends on the type of reconstruction performed.

After surgery, patients may have:

  • Limited activity for up to two months
  • Fatigue
  • Pain, bruising, swelling or soreness
  • Restrictions on movement
  • Stitches and drainage tubes
  • Loss of breast sensation
  • Bleeding or blood clots
  • Infection
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Slow wound healing
  • Tissue death
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Uneven breasts
  • Movement, rupture or leakage of implant
  • Needing implants removed
  • Additional surgery to fix complications

What Types of Breast Reconstruction Are Available?

You will work with your surgeon to decide which type of breast reconstruction is right for you. Your surgeon and you will take into consideration your personal preferences for surgery, recovery and results, as well as your body shape, prior surgeries, cancer treatments and overall health.

Breast reconstruction often requires multiple operations and significant recovery time. All breast reconstruction has risks and benefits. It’s important to weigh your options carefully and follow care instructions from your doctor to reduce the risk of complications.

What Is Microsurgery?

Microsurgery is becoming more popular in breast reconstructions and involves the surgeon reattaching small blood vessels while performing surgery through a microscope.

While some types of breast reconstruction involve taking muscle from your abdomen, microsurgery allows surgeons to perform breast reconstructions using a minimal amount of muscle tissue.

Microsurgery may be performed at the same time as your mastectomy or even years down the road if you are unhappy with a previous breast reconstruction.

Potential breast reconstruction microsurgery benefits include:

  • Spared abdominal muscles
  • Softer, more natural-looking breasts
  • Permanent results

Learn more about Banner MD Anderson’s breast reconstruction program and the types of breast procedures available:

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