According to BreastCancer.org, one in eight women will develop some type of invasive breast cancer in her life. And in 2021 alone, over 281,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, and it is estimated that 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women this year will be breast cancer.
And for many women diagnosed with certain types of breast cancer, a mastectomy will be required to ensure the cancer is removed from the body.
A mastectomy often leaves women not only with physical scars of the cancer they endured but also with emotional scars and a completely changed body appearance. However, breast reconstruction can help ease the pain of the emotional scarring and provide women with a regained sense of self-confidence.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery procedure that reforms one or both breasts after a mastectomy. Often, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as a mastectomy. Either a traditional breast implant or even your own body tissue is used to create new breasts that replicate your natural breasts. If you are interested in increasing volume or shape, you may opt for implants. Tissue reconstruction may be the best option for those who have undergone radiation, as this can increase the development of scar tissue from implants.
If reconstruction is being done on just one breast, it is important to note that the shape may not match the other natural breast over time, as the natural breast may change in size and shape. As such, implants are often recommended for women with small- to medium-sized natural breasts that have little to no sagging.
A consultation with a skilled plastic surgeon is key for answering all of your questions and receiving recommendations on the solutions best suited for you based on your medical history, lifestyle, and goals.
Types of Breast Reconstruction
There are four main types of breast reconstruction: TRAM/DIEP flap, latissimus flap, tissue expander followed by placement of an implant, and oncoplasty.
- TRAM/DIEP Flap: A TRAM flap and DIEP flap are procedures that use your own tissue and muscle from your body to reconstruct the breast. In both of these surgeries, the surgeon removes tissue from the abdominal area and uses it to shape a new breast after a mastectomy is performed.
- Latissimus Flap: Similar to a TRAM/DIEP flap, a latissimus flap uses tissue from the upper back to reconstruct the breast. Sometimes, the surgeon may also insert an implant to ensure that both breasts match. Plastic surgeons may use tissue from the upper hip or buttocks to create a flap.
- Tissue Expander with Implant: If a woman decides to have an implant inserted for her breast reconstruction, a tissue expander may be used to gently and gradually stretch the chest tissue that remains after a mastectomy is performed. The surgeon will add saline to the expander every 4 to 6 months until it is the correct size to insert the implant.
- Oncoplasty: On some occasions, a woman may need only a lump removed, which can lead to asymmetry of the remaining breast tissue. In order to restore a normal appearance, the surgeon will reshape the breast tissue and then shape the other breast to restore symmetry.
Insurance and Breast Reconstruction
The cost of breast reconstructions can be intimidating, but fortunately, federal law requires insurance companies to cover these procedures. After a lumpectomy, single mastectomy, or bilateral mastectomy, insurance companies will provide coverage for the necessary breast reconstruction procedure and any procedures that may need to be performed on the unaffected breast to ensure a symmetrical appearance.
If you are undergoing surgery to address breast cancer and are ready to discuss your reconstruction options, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.