Breast reconstruction is an option for women whose breast has been removed due to cancer or other disease. New medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast that can come close in form and appearance to matching a natural breast. Frequently, reconstruction is possible immediately following breast removal (mastectomy), so the patient wakes up with a breast mound already in place. While there are many options in post-mastectomy reconstruction, you and your surgeon should discuss the one that is best for you.
Skin Expansion. The most common technique combines skin expansion and the subsequent insertion of an implant. With skin expansion, the surgeon inserts a tissue expander beneath your skin and chest muscle following mastectomy. Over a period of time, the expander is filled with saline until the skin has stretched enough to allow the insertion of the implant.
TRAM Flap Reconstruction. In TRAM flap surgery, the tissue remains attached to its original site, retaining its blood supply. The flap, consisting of the skin, fat and muscle with its blood supply, are tunneled beneath the skin to the chest, creating the breast mound itself, without need for an implant.
Most breast reconstruction involves a series of procedures
that occur over time. Follow-up surgery may be required to replace
the tissue expander with the implant, or to reconstruct the
nipple and the areola. Also, many surgeons recommend an additional
operation to enlarge, reduce, or lift the natural breast to
match the reconstructed breast.