The breasts are a key characteristic of femininity, and losing them because of the life-altering effects of breast cancer can be devastating. If you have recently undergone a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or breast biopsy that has negatively affected the size and shape of your breasts, then consider breast reconstruction surgery to restore what breast cancer has taken away.
At MEplasticsurgery Plastic Surgery, we understand that the breasts are an essential part of your female identity and that losing them can both harm your self-esteem and impact how comfortable you feel in your own body. Dr. Marc Everett can rebuild your breasts and help you regain your self-confidence with both implant and tissue flap breast reconstruction procedures.
Implant breast reconstruction surgery is typically completed as a two-part procedure. While some women can have their implants placed immediately after their mastectomy for direct-to-implant reconstruction, most women need to wait several months before receiving their implants. Which method is chosen depends on how much breast tissue the patient has left following removal of the breast cancer and whether enough skin remains to allow for the placement of an implant.
If extra space needs to be created in preparation for delayed breast reconstruction, then a tissue expander will be placed in the breast following the mastectomy. The expander will be gradually enlarged over several weeks or months by injecting a saltwater solution through a small valve in the device. Once enough space has been created, and the skin has been adequately stretched, the breast implants may be placed.
Breast implant augmentation is completed under general anesthesia. If possible, the surgeon will place incisions in the same location as the mastectomy scars to eliminate any extra scarring from the procedure. After the incisions have been made, the expander is removed, and the implant is put into place. Patients may choose between silicone or saline implants depending on their preference, and Dr. Marc Everett educates them on the difference before the procedure to ensure patients make an informed decision.
After the implants have been placed within the breasts, the incisions are sutured shut. The length of the procedure generally spans between one to two hours.
Results following breast implant augmentation will be immediately noticeable, although final results will take several months to develop fully. Patients can usually return home the same day as the procedure and will need to rest for about 48 hours to recover fully. Most patients return to work within one week and can resume more strenuous activities over four to six weeks.
Common side effects include bruising, swelling, tenderness, and numbness that can last for three to four weeks. Swelling can take several months to dissipate fully and will temporarily distort the size and shape of the breasts. Compression garments and tight, supportive bras will help minimize swelling. Any surgical drains or non-dissolvable sutures will be removed around one week following surgery.
Final results take about four to six months to completely develop. Incisions will continue to improve with time, eventually fading to thin white lines between 12 and 18 months after the procedure.
Breast reconstruction surgery is different for every patient since no two patients share the same anatomy or desired results. The procedure can sometimes be performed at the same time as the breast cancer surgery for immediate breast reconstruction, or it may be completed after the initial operation for delayed breast reconstruction.
Breast reconstruction surgery is highly-personalized. If just one breast was affected by the cancer diagnosis, then the procedure can be performed on only the breast that requires reconstruction. Breast reconstruction patients also have the option to decide between the use of synthetic implants or tissue grafts taken from elsewhere on the body to rebuild breast size and shape. Some patients may be viable candidates for both options, although some women may benefit from one procedure more than the other.
At MEplasticsurgery Plastic Surgery, Dr. Marc Everett works with their patients on an individual basis to determine the ideal treatment plan that will suit their needs.
Tissue flap breast reconstruction benefits patients who are not candidates for breast implants or would prefer to use natural means to restore their breasts. Several different types of tissue flap procedures exist depending on which donor site is chosen for the tissue graft. Common donor sites include the abdomen, back, thighs and buttocks.
The procedure is completed under general anesthesia and can be completed alongside the mastectomy, although some patients may opt to have their breast reconstruction surgery performed at a later date. During the procedure, the tissue is removed from the donor site and transplanted to the breasts to rebuild them to their pre-mastectomy size and shape. Surgery can take between three and eight hours, depending on the type of tissue flap procedure completed.
Because tissue flap breast reconstruction requires a tissue graft from another section of the body, the patient will have two scar locations. Unlike synthetic breast implants, tissue flaps will fluctuate in size in correspondence with weight gain or loss. They also have the benefit of feeling more like the original breasts since the tissue is entirely natural. In some cases, tissue flaps may also be combined with breast implants or fat micrografting to provide optimal results.
Not every patient is a candidate for tissue flap breast reconstruction. Since healthy blood vessels are needed to provide live tissue grafts, patients who smoke are not typically good candidates for this particular procedure. Dr. Marc Everett can determine whether a patient is a good candidate for tissue flap breast reconstruction after an in-person evaluation.
Recovery and Results
Tissue flap breast reconstruction requires a more extended recovery period than breast implant reconstruction. Patients will need to spend two to four days recovering in the hospital before returning home. Recovery tends to be more uncomfortable for tissue flap reconstruction since multiple areas of the body are affected by the procedure, primarily if breast reconstruction was performed immediately following the mastectomy.
Patients will need to rest and focus on recovery for three to four weeks before being able to return to work and gradually resume their normal activities. Exercise and more strenuous activities can be resumed about six weeks into recovery. Common side effects include discomfort, bruising, and swelling, which can be mitigated using compression garments.
Surgical drains will likely be placed in both the breasts and the tissue flap donor site. They will be removed once they are no longer needed, typically one to two weeks after surgery. Like implant breast reconstruction, results will be immediately visible but will require several months to develop fully. Scars and incision marks will continue to fade and improve for up to 18 months.
Which procedure you choose for your breast reconstruction depends on several variables and is ultimately a very personal decision. Not all patients are candidates for either procedure, and some may benefit from one more than the other. At an in-person consultation, we will discuss your options in-depth and help you make an informed choice that will provide you with your desired results.
Both silicone and saline implants provide natural-looking results for breast augmentation. Since saline implants are filled after being placed within the breast, they have the benefit of being highly-customizable according to your size preference. Silicone implants come in predetermined shapes and sizes, but they tend to feel more natural due to the thicker, firmer consistency of the gel-like silicone. Which option you decide on is entirely up to you, and we will go over the pros and cons of each type of implant before your procedure.
Planning when to undergo your breast reconstruction surgery is a deeply personal decision. If possible, opting for immediate direct-to-implant or immediate tissue flap reconstruction can provide a shorter recovery period in the long run. However, not every patient can receive implants immediately following a mastectomy or wants to undergo two operations at the same time. We will help educate you on the benefits of each choice and provide you with our professional recommendation based on your individual needs.
Breast implants are not designed to be lifelong devices, although they do not have a set lifespan. Some women choose to get their implants removed several years after their procedure, while others continue to enjoy their implants for ten years or more. How long you decide to keep your implants is entirely up to you. In the unlikely event of a rupture, they will need to be removed or replaced. Regular check-up appointments will help verify their integrity, although a leaking implant will typically be visible due to the change in size.
Scarring is, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of breast reconstruction. However, we believe the benefits of this life-altering procedure far outweigh any scarring present afterward. Scars will also continue to fade with time and can usually be covered with clothing, including bikini tops. Rest assured, we will make every effort possible to minimize scarring by utilizing previous incision lines and making incisions in inconspicuous locations.
At MEplasticsurgery Plastic Surgery, we want to help you recapture your self-confidence. To learn more about breast reconstruction surgery, schedule a consultation today with Dr. Marc Everett. You can reach our New York office at 212-774-7715 to book your appointment.