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A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating. In addition to dealing with the prospect of battling cancer, a woman may be facing the loss of part or all of her breasts. Facing a masectomy can be emotionally draining for many women. Fortunately, breast reconstruction surgery can reshape the breasts, so they regain their form after cancer treatment. This reconstruction process can help a woman find her self-confidence again and feel better during her cancer recovery.

What is breast reconstruction surgery?

The goal of breast reconstruction is to reform or reshape the breast after mastectomy or lumpectomy. While many factors determine what kind of breast reconstruction surgery would best suit an individual, there are two main types of breast reconstruction surgery.

The two main types of breast reconstruction surgery are:

  • Implants or prosthetics: This involves surgery using silicone or saline implants.
  • Autologous tissue surgery: This method uses tissue from another area of the body.

In some cases, a combination of both techniques may be used to reconstruct the breast more naturally. Additionally, some techniques can be added on to either surgery to reconstruct the nipple area if it has been affected by the cancer treatment. Breast reconstruction may be started at the time of the mastectomy or lumpectomy. When this is done, it is known as immediate reconstruction. Reconstruction can also be done after the mastectomy has healed and cancer treatments are finished. In this case, the surgery is known as delayed reconstruction.

What are the options?

Here, we look at how breast reconstruction is done using implants or fat grafting surgery.

Implants

After a mastectomy or lumpectomy, breast reconstruction surgery may help to restore confidence. Breast reconstruction with implants is a procedure where silicone implants are inserted underneath the skin or muscle below where the breast tissue was. For most people, this is done in two stages. During the first surgery, a tissue expander is placed under the remaining skin of the breast or pectoralis muscles. The tissue expander acts as a temporary saline implant that gradually stretches the remaining tissue.

After the woman has healed from surgery, sterile saline or salt water is injected into the tissue expander on a weekly basis. This gradually enlarging balloon stretches the overlying skin and muscle until it has reached a size the woman is satisfied to have. When the chest tissues are healed, and enough saline has been added to the tissue expander to prepare the chest for the implants, a second surgical procedure is done. The tissue expander is removed and replaced with a silicone implant. This reconstruction may be started at the time of the mastectomy or may be delayed until after the cancer treatment is complete.

Fat grafting

With fat grafting it is possible to reconstruct small breast in 2 or 3 surgical intervention without scars and with long lasting results. Fat grafting is an amazing technique where the fat is harvested from another body area and transferred to the breast to recreate the soft feeling of a normal breast tissue.

It can take more session to reach the required size, but each step is not painful and the recovery is very fast after each procedure. Reconstructed breasts will not look exactly the same as the person’s natural breasts and will not have the same sensation. However, over a few years, some sensation may return.