Immediate or Delayed Breast Reconstruction

If you choose to have breast reconstruction, it could be done during your mastectomy. Depending upon the stage of your cancer, medical conditions, treatment and general preference, you may also have surgery later.

There is a lot to consider with breast reconstruction. While there are many advantages, it’s not for everyone. Let us help you explore your options and talk you through any questions you may have. Our caring team of experts is here to help with treatment options customized to your needs.

Both types of breast reconstruction are major surgery and will require a hospital stay. For the first few weeks following surgery, most women experience bruising, swelling and some pain. Within one to two months, you should be able to resume normal activities. However, it may take up to several years for your complete recovery.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Immediate vs Delayed Breast Reconstruction

Immediate Breast Reconstruction

Immediate breast reconstruction takes place at the same time as mastectomy surgery. As soon as the breast is removed, doctors reconstruct the breast using tissue, an implant or both during the same surgery. If you’re having prophylactic mastectomy to reduce your risk of breast cancer, reconstruction is commonly done immediately.

Advantages

  • Immediate cosmetic results
  • Reduced risk for social and emotional problems
  • Fewer surgeries and potentially lower surgery cost
  • Doesn’t affect or increase cancer reoccurrence or ability to detect cancer reoccurrence

Disadvantages

  • May not always be possible due to other cancer treatments needed
  • May be harder to detect problems with the healing of mastectomy skin
  • Longer hospitalization and recovery times than mastectomy alone
  • Possibly more scarring than mastectomy alone
  • Potentially more complications than having just a mastectomy

Recovery Time

Recovery time with immediate breast reconstruction may be longer or more difficult than breast cancer surgery alone. In general, the procedure requires a four- to eight-week recovery period before returning to work or normal activities, and this depends on the type of reconstruction performed.

Delayed Breast Reconstruction

You may need or choose to wait until after breast cancer surgery before starting breast reconstruction. After breast cancer surgery to remove your breast and surrounding tissue, your doctor will close the incision. Your breast will be flat with a scar running horizontally. During delayed breast reconstruction, the original scar is opened and doctors use an implant and/or tissue and skin from other parts of your body to form a breast.

Advantages

  • Limits delays in starting other cancer therapies immediately after mastectomy
  • Can be done at any time – days, weeks or years following surgery
  • Gives patients more time to plan and consider options

Disadvantages

  • Until reconstruction, you have a mastectomy scar on your chest
  • Additional surgery and recovery time
  • Scarring may cause difficulties with the reconstruction
  • Cosmetic results are delayed, which may delay emotional healing

Recovery time

With delayed reconstruction, your recovery time and experience will be like your cancer surgery. The procedure requires a hospital stay and a four- to six-week recovery period before returning to work or normal activities.