Delayed Breast Reconstruction

According to a report by John Hopkins University, more than 70% of breast cancer survivors who choose not to have a breast reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy do not realize they can reconstruct their breast or breasts in the future. Dr. Comizio works with many patients who have delayed breast reconstruction, helping them regain the figure they have waited months for, or years, after a mastectomy. Breast reconstruction, which is covered by health insurance, can help a breast cancer survivor boost their self-esteem and self-image.

A delayed breast reconstruction is possible, regardless of the number of years since natural breast was removed. There are three breast reconstruction surgery options for breast cancer survivors – breast reduction or breast lift for symmetry, implant-based breast reconstruction, and tissue-based breast reconstruction.

Breast Reduction or Breast Lift for Symmetry

Women who have had a previous lumpectomy or mastectomy on one breast may have never considered the possibility of having the unaffected side changed to improve symmetry. This is possible through a breast reduction or breast lift, or a combination of the two. In many instances, a breast reduction and lift on the non-cancerous breast is an excellent way to improve the symmetry between breasts. Symmetry surgery is covered by health insurance and is done as an outpatient procedure. It does not involve or distort the side of the body that had the breast cancer and can help in matching the volume and size of both breasts.  It may also improve any neck or shoulder discomfort from having an uneven pull along the shoulders from the bra straps. Symmetry surgery with reduction can even reduce the risk of cancer in the healthy breast and may make breast exams easier with less tissue to examine. This type of surgery is a way for women to more easily match a breast prosthesis or a previous reconstruction on the other breast.

Tissue-based Breast Reconstruction

A mastectomy patient may never have considered plastic surgery prior to a breast cancer diagnosis. There are more natural options. Women who have chosen to delay breast reconstruction may feel more comfortable using their body’s own natural tissue. A tissue-based breast reconstruction utilizes skin, blood vessels, and tissue from one area of the body – typically the abdomen or back – to fill out and form a breast.

While tissue-based breast reconstruction is a good surgical option for many women who have delayed breast reconstruction, it’s not for everyone. First, you need to have enough donor tissue to harvest for the procedure, so women who are thin may not be candidates for this type of delayed breast reconstruction. Second, tissue-based breast reconstruction requires incisions and surgery at multiple sites simultaneously, so it can be a more complicated surgery and require more recovery time.

Implant-based Breast Reconstruction

Some breast cancer survivors choose to forgo tissue-based breast reconstruction and have their breasts reconstructed with silicone or saline breast implants. This procedure is very different from a typical cosmetic breast augmentation.  A delayed implant-based breast reconstruction will include tissue expanders that are placed under the skin and subcutaneous tissue, then inflated post-operatively. After the remaining breast skin has sufficiently stretched, silicone or saline implants are placed.

Delayed implant-based breast reconstruction is not for anyone. If  a patient has had radiation or multiple scars on their breast, the expander may not produce the breast size and shape they are looking to achieve.

Regardless of the length of time post mastectomy, a breast reconstruction is still possible. Simply reach out to Dr. Comizio for a consultation: 973-775-9248.