Whether for a breast cancer diagnosis or a high-risk situation, mastectomy surgery can be a stressful experience. At Olack Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, we believe that breast reconstruction can play an integral role in a woman’s healing process. Dr. Olack and our team are committed to providing each patient with the caring, personalized treatment they deserve. If you are interested in breast reconstruction, contact our Show Low office today by calling (928) 537-6767.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a cosmetic surgery procedure that rebuilds the shape and volume of the breasts after lumpectomy or mastectomy. Each case is customized to achieve the best aesthetic outcome and is developed based on the amount of natural breast tissue that remains or is expected to remain after cancer treatment.
“I cannot say enough about this Dr. He is incredible. Always you are made to feel like you are his primary concern when he is with you. Never rushed, answers all your questions in lamens terms and is doing a fantastic job to ensure I have the best results possible after having a mastectomy. Truly a blessing.” – Debbie A.
Benefits of Reconstructive Breast Surgery
There are several reasons why women choose to undergo breast reconstruction, and each is valuable. Restoring breast shape, even if slight differences remain between the breasts, often allows a woman to put her traumatic experience behind her. The restored appearance of the breasts brings with it a resurgence of self-confidence and appreciation for her physical shape. The effects of breast reconstruction go far beyond the cosmetic improvement achieved from this procedure.
Before & After Breast Reconstruction
Am I a candidate for breast reconstruction?
Your Consultation With Dr. Olack
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have a mastectomy or lumpectomy in your future, it is important that you explore your options for reconstruction before your surgery. Consulting with a plastic surgeon, like Dr. Olack, during the planning stage of your mastectomy gives you the best opportunity to understand how your shape can be recreated to complement your overall frame. In some cases, reconstruction can take place at the same time as the mastectomy.
One of the most important points you will discuss with Dr. Olack during your consultation is which type of breast reconstruction will be most effective based on clinical information regarding your particular breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. In addition to a brief medical history and evaluation of breast tissue, the consultation visit focuses on a thorough discussion of treatment options.
We encourage patients to do research before their consultation and to bring a list of questions to their appointment. No question is off limits. Your questions provide us with the opportunity to respond with clear, detailed information regarding reconstructive techniques. We understand that peace of mind can increase with clear communication, and we strive to give this to each patient by directly and clearly explaining what they can expect from their reconstruction process.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
Options for breast reconstruction are constantly improving and evolving. Techniques are developed with the objective of achieving the most satisfactory and natural-looking results for each patient. There are currently two categories of breast reconstruction:
- Implant reconstruction. This may occur with or without tissue expander treatment and involves the placement of one or two breast implants to restore shape and symmetry.
- Autologous tissue reconstruction. This type of breast reconstruction utilizes tissue from another part of the body to recreate the look and feel of the breast.
Techniques For Reconstructive Breast Surgery
Breast implant reconstruction can reshape one or both breasts after partial or full mastectomy. Before surgery, Dr. Olack will sit down with you and discuss the different types of breast implants that are available, including silicone and saline and their various forms. Implant placement is also discussed. Many women prefer the option of placing implants beneath muscle tissue. Depending on the extent of tissue removed during mastectomy, it may be necessary to place a tissue expander in the breast pocket for several months to gradually create the space to comfortably hold an implant.
Autologous Tissue Reconstruction
There are a few common techniques that are considered for patients who prefer a natural reconstructive process without implants. These include:
- TRAM flap, or traditional flap. This surgery creates a tunnel of skin, muscle, and fat from the abdomen to the chest. Here, the tissue is formed to recreate the breast.
- DIEP perforator flap. DIEP stands for the deep inferior epigastric perforator artery. In this technique, only fat, skin, and blood vessels are moved from the abdomen to the chest. This is a microsurgery technique in which blood vessels are detached from one area and reattached to blood vessels in the chest.
- GAP flaps. This type of flap reconstruction utilizes tissue in the area of the gluteal artery perforator; the hip or upper buttocks. It may be better suited for double-breast reconstruction where there is insufficient abdominal tissue to achieve the best results.
The various types of autologous tissue reconstruction can deliver optimal results. During our consultation, we discuss these and other potential flap options in extensive detail.
Reconstructive Surgery With Dr. Olack
Breast reconstruction may occur at the same time as a mastectomy. Whether performed simultaneously or at a later date, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia. Vital signs are monitored throughout the surgery.
As discussed in the consultation and planning visits, Dr. Olack will make incisions in the breast area and, if applicable, a donor area such as the abdomen, dorsal area, or hip. At this point:
- A tissue expander will be inserted in one or both breasts; or
- Tissue from the donor site will be transferred to the chest: or
- Breast implants will be inserted
- The nipple may be repositioned or recreated
- A surgical dressing is applied over the breasts and a surgical bra may also be applied
After surgery, patients remain in an observation area until the anesthesia wears off.
Is breast reconstruction surgery painful?
recovery after reconstructive breast surgery
The recovery experience after breast reconstruction may be slightly different for each patient depending on the type and extent of her surgery. If a hospital stay is necessary, it usually does not extend beyond a few days. Patients may go home with small drains to allow fluid to escape. If this is the case, instructions for emptying drains are provided.
In general, we prepare patients to feel sore and tired for a week or two. During this initial stage of recovery, it is important not to rush physical activity. Very short walks may be all that is possible. Fortunately, that is all that may be necessary to prevent blood clots. Within two weeks, most patients feel well enough to resume light activity. It may be possible to return to work at this time. By six to eight weeks after surgery, most normal activities can be comfortably performed. Strenuous activity may resume over the course of several weeks.
Follow-up visits with Dr. Olack are scheduled as needed to remove drains and check the progress of healing.
What Results Can I Expect?
Your new breasts may not look or feel exactly like your natural breasts did. They may not look for feel exactly as you had imagined. It can take time to get used to the look and feel of your new breasts, even when your reconstruction was very successful. One of the best ways to assure your satisfaction with breast reconstruction is to ask a lot of questions during your planning phase.
Whether it happens immediately or over time, most women who undergo breast reconstruction are very happy with their decision to restore contours to their chest.
Risks of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
All surgical procedures carry a small risk for bleeding, infection, fluid accumulation, and poor wound healing. We reduce these risks with careful surgical techniques, the placement of drains, and detailed instructions for post-surgical wound care. Additional risks of breast reconstruction relate to the type of procedure that is performed. For example:
- Breast implants may look asymmetrical
- Scar tissue may form around breast implants (capsular contracture)
- Nerve sensation may be decreased or lost after implant or flap surgery
Risks of breast reconstruction are discussed at length during our consultation appointment. While they do exist, the risks commonly associated with reconstructive techniques are typically outweighed by the rewards of surgery.