A diagnosis of breast cancer is frightening and stressful. You are worried about treatment and its side effects. You are also worried about what your body will look like after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Breast reconstruction can restore your confidence and body image.
There are two categories of breast reconstruction options. One is known as an autologous reconstruction, where your own tissue is used to form a new breast. The second category is a breast implant.
These are five different options of breast reconstruction you can choose from.
1. TRAM Flap
A TRAM flap uses tissue and muscle from your abdomen. TRAM flap stands for transverse rectus abdominis myocutaneous flap. This tissue is found in your lower abdomen. The tissue between your waist and pubic bone is removed and placed over your mastectomy site. It is then carefully shaped to look like a breast.
This is a good option for women that have enough extra belly tissue and who do not plan on getting pregnant in the future. Women who have concerns about losing abdominal strength may want to consider a different option.
2. DIEP Flap
A DIEP flap is similar to a TRAM flap. DIEP stands for deep inferior epigastric perforator artery. In a DIEP flap, no muscle tissue is used to reshape the breast. This surgery involves microsurgery where blood vessels in the flap are attached to those in the chest. Choosing a surgeon who is skilled in this procedure is an important factor to consider.
Women who have enough extra belly tissue and have blood vessels large enough to reattach are candidates for a DIEP flap. Because this surgery does not involve muscle, it is a better option for athletic women.
3. Latissimus Flap
A latissimus flap is another autologous reconstruction surgery that uses tissue from the back. The latissimus dorsi muscle is located just behind your armpit below your shoulder. This surgery uses all of the muscle, fat, and skin to reshape the breast.
If there is not enough tissue on the stomach to perform a DIEP or TRAM flap, this surgery can be a good option. Avid tennis players, swimmers, and golfers may prefer another type of reconstruction. This surgery can limit the strength and function of the muscles involved in those sports.
4. Breast implant
Breast implants are a popular breast reconstruction option. The implant can be placed over the chest muscle or underneath it. Depending on several factors, you may have an implant placed immediately after your mastectomy. You may also need to have a tissue expander. A tissue expander gently stretches the tissue over time. Your surgeon will inject saline over the course of 4-6 months. Once the appropriate size is achieved, the tissue expander is removed and replaced with an implant.
There are three types of implants available – silicone gel, gummy bear (cohesive gel), and saline. Your plastic surgeon will discuss your goals and desired outcomes so that you can choose the right implant for you. Factors to consider include size, shape, and texture.
Women often choose implants if they don’t have enough tissue for a flap reconstruction. Some women don’t want to have incisions or scars on other parts of their body. Implants may not be an option if you will need radiation treatment after your reconstruction surgery.
When a lumpectomy is performed instead of a full mastectomy, oncoplasty may be chosen to restore symmetry to the breasts. Your surgeon will sculpt the breast to correct its shape. The second breast may be modified to match. A breast lift or a breast reconstruction can be done at the same time to ensure the best results.
When you are considering options for breast reconstruction, a consultation with a plastic surgeon is important in the decision-making process. With their guidance, you will soon have a plan to restore your breasts and put cancer behind you. Schedule an appointment today.