families sometimes choose to have the breasts removed ( prophylactic mastectomy ) even before the disease shows symptom, in order to avoid cancer completely.
It is also important for women to be healthy when undergoing breast reconstruction. Conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure may result in postponing the reconstructive surgery.
Breast cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the breast. It is not known what actually causes this disease, however age, health history and other factors can affect the risk of developing breast cancer.
It is important for women to check regularly for breast cancer, once a month is recommended. A mastectomy can be avoided if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early.
How is Breast Reconstruction Performed?
Breast reconstruction is usually performed in a hospital, under general anesthesia. This is a major operation that may require more than one procedure.
During the procedure, the affected breast is removed through mastectomy. There are various options to post-mastectomy reconstruction. The following are the two most common forms:
Skin expansion – this is the most common technique. It involves skin expansion, combined with insertion of an implant.
After the breast is removed, a balloon expander is inserted beneath the skin and chest muscle. Saline is injected periodically to gradually fill the expander. Once the breast tissue has been stretched enough, the expander is removed and a more permanent implant can be placed. The nipple and areola are reconstructed in later procedures.
Flap reconstruction – this involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body, like the back, abdomen, or buttocks. This procedure also has its own variations.
In one type of flap reconstruction, the tissue remains attached to its original site, which retains its blood supply. The flap, consisting of the skin, fat, and muscle, are tunneled beneath the skin to the chest. This creates a pocket for the implant or, in some cases, it creates the breast mound itself, in which case, no implant is needed.
Another technique involves using tissue that is surgically removed from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks, which is then transplanted to the chest by reconnecting the blood vessels, through microsurgical technique, to new ones in that region.
How Much Pain is Associated with Breast Reconstruction?
There is always a considerable amount of pain after surgery, especially in a procedure as extensive as breast reconstruction and mastectomy. You are likely to feel tired and sore for a week or two following surgery. Prescribed medication can control most of the discomfort.
What is the road to recovery like?
It may take up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction. Most scars should fade over time, but they may take one to two years and never fully disappear.
Your surgeon will advise you on when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities. Generally women return to normal activities about three to six weeks following reconstruction.
What are The Long-Term Effects of Breast Reconstruction?
Chances are your reconstructed breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your natural breast. It may not have the same contour as your own breast, nor will it exactly match your opposite breast.
What Are the Risks and Limitations of Breast Reconstruction?
All surgeries carry risks, including bleeding, fluid collection, excessive scar tissue, or difficulties with anesthesia.
For those who undergo breast reconstruction, the most common complication is capsular contracture, where the scar or capsule around the implant begins to tighten. This can cause the breast to feel hard.
Are there other alternatives?
Immediately after mastectomy, some may choose to wear a breast prosthesis instead of undergoing reconstruction. Some women choose to live the rest of their lives without breasts. The decision to undergo a breast reconstruction is entirely up to the patient.
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