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Everything You Need To Know About Breast Reconstruction

Update Date: Mar 16, 2021 09:18 AM EDT
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Everything You Need To Know About Breast Reconstruction
(Photo : Everything You Need To Know About Breast Reconstruction)

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is already scary and overwhelming, but after the diagnosis, you need to make many decisions - regarding chemo, surgery, mastectomy, or even breast reconstruction. It gets quite disconcerting. While your mind and body are already fragile fightings with cancer, and it seems hard to even move from one day to another, these decisions become even more daunting. It might seem the events and information are coming at a faster pace than you can process, and you are completely caught off guard by the turns of events. 

However, the decisions you make in this phase can affect both your recovery process and the quality of your life post-cancer. Whether you should opt for a breast reconstruction surgery is such a decision that you might have to make after the diagnosis. Read on to find out what exactly is breast reconstruction, what options you have, and when you should go for it.

What Is A Mastectomy?

In most cases, patients have to surgically remove breast tissues to get rid of cancer or to reduce cancer risk. The process of removing breast tissue is known as a mastectomy. It is the most widely used practice to curb the growth of breast cancer. While there is another option called lumpectomy where only the tumor tissue is removed, conserving the regular breast tissue, it is not feasible for patients with widespread cancer or those who face the risk of recurring cancer.  

What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Most patients undergoing mastectomy decide to have another surgery called breast reconstruction surgery. This surgery aims to improve the psychological well-being of the patient. Suddenly losing a regular organ due to cancer can take its toll on the patients' minds and can affect the recovery and the quality of their life.

However, while breast reconstruction is totally optional for cancer patients, it still is a major surgical procedure. You might need even several surgical procedures for total breast reconstruction. So it is recommended you opt for this procedure only when you have all the necessary information at your disposal. Consulting with your local cancer specialists will be a great way to start the research about it. If you are living in Winnipeg, you can visit Breast Implants Winnipeg to learn more about the procedure.

What Are The Options For Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction can be done in two different procedures. Before deciding on an option, you should consult with your doctor about your medical condition, health stability, and other requirements.

Reconstruction with Implants

Almost 80% of reconstruction surgeries involve this method. Reconstruction with implants requires inserting a silicone gel or saline gel implant under your skin. It works almost like a prosthetic but a permanent one.

The process may require two phases- in the first one, a tissue expander is placed under the breast tissue or pectoralis muscle. The tissue expander helps the tissue to expand in volume so they are ready to accommodate the silicone implant under the muscle and skin. The tissue expander is filled with saline water with injection at least once a week. This stage can prove to be painful for the patient, but it is nothing severe.

After a few weeks, the tissue expander is replaced with a silicone or saline implant through a second surgery. However, in some cases, the implant can be placed right after the mastectomy procedure without expanding the tissue.

Reconstruction with Flaps

Reconstruction with flaps involves extracting tissue from another part of the body and replanting it in the chest. Usually, the tissue is grafted from your abdomen, back, or thigh. The procedure is complex and requires a highly skilled surgeon. If you decide on flap reconstruction, make sure you find the best surgeons in Winnipeg. Flap reconstruction can be of two types-

Pedicle Flap Reconstruction

When you graft tissue from one part of your body to another part, you can either keep the original blood supply or connect it to a new blood supply. When the original blood supply is intact with the tissue, it is called a pedicle flap. The tissue growth fares better with the original blood supply. However, while pedicle flap reconstruction may feel and look natural, their growth doesn't completely replicate the original.

Free Flap Reconstruction

Free flap reconstruction requires tissue removal from its original site with the blood vessels and connecting it to a new blood supply. This process is more complex and riskier, especially if the blood vessels get clogged, causing the tissue to die. However, the result looks the most natural.

Immediate Reconstruction

Immediate reconstruction is done at the time of mastectomy or lumpectomy. There are less surgery and recovery involved as it is all done in one go.

Delayed Reconstruction

Reconstruction can be done at any time or age. You don't have to opt for reconstruction during your cancer treatment. If months or years down the line, you decide to have the surgery you are free to do so. Besides, a delayed reconstruction will provide you the chance to focus on your cancer recovery rather than adding more complications.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Reconstruction Surgery?

Like other major surgeries, breast reconstruction also has its side effects. After the surgery, you may experience-

  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Fluid build-up near the wound
  • Itching and discomfort from the stitch
  • Numbness

Can You Go Without Reconstruction?

Reconstruction is completely optional. In fact, many prefer not to have one so they can have a faster recovery.  Besides, having reconstruction might require lifestyle adjustments - athletic activities and such. You can also think about prosthetics in place of reconstruction. Reconstruction can be costly. In Winnipeg, you might have to spend $8900, and it can run even higher for complex procedures. However, cancer patients who have gone through a single mastectomy might prefer a reconstruction to bring symmetry to their appearance.

The Bottom Line

In Canada, about one in eight women develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Almost half of those cancer patients have to go through mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. However, whether you should opt for reconstruction or not, the decision is completely up to you. There is no correct way to approach the issue. Before you decide, you should weigh in all your options. Consult with an expert surgeon in Winnipeg to know your options. Make sure the decision you make is completely yours; it shouldn't be swayed by your surgeon's opinion or peer pressure.

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