Other questions and more information
What types of breast reconstruction are available on the NHS?
All proven techniques of breast reconstruction are available on the NHS but some may not be available in your local hospital. Your breast cancer surgeon or GP should refer you to a plastic surgery centre if a particular type of reconstruction is not available locally, even if you just want to find out more.
Do I decide what type of breast reconstruction I will have or is it up to my surgeon?
Not all types of reconstruction are suitable for everyone and there are pros and cons for each. You and your surgeon should decide together what would be best for you and what your choices are. You should be offered all the options that might be possible for you, even if they cannot be carried out in your local hospital.
What is involved in a breast reconstruction?
This will depend on the type of reconstruction you choose and whether it is being carried out at the same time as your cancer surgery. Most women will have one major operation, but may then choose to have a nipple reconstruction at a later date, and it is quite common to need a more minor adjustment to the new breast once everything has settled down.
Who can I speak to, to get more information on what’s available for me?
The specialist nurse in the breast clinic and your cancer surgeon will be able to give you advice about what is available locally for you, but you may find it helpful also to have a discussion with a plastic surgeon about some of the more complicated techniques. If there isn’t a plastic surgeon in the breast clinic then you can ask to be referred to one.
There are many excellent support groups and online resources for women with breast cancer and we have included their contact details in this guide. You have some big decisions to make and so you should make sure you have all the information that you need to help you with them
What factors do I need to think about when making my decision on what type of reconstruction to have?
The first thing you need to decide is if you want a reconstruction at all and if so whether you would like it at the same time as your cancer surgery (“immediate reconstruction”) or at a later date (“delayed reconstruction”).
You should also consider if you would be happy with a reconstruction that uses a breast implant or if you would prefer to avoid that, even if it means having a bigger operation. Other considerations include your willingness to have a scar elsewhere on your body and if you would be ready to have the other breast operated on as well to help give you a better “match” with your reconstruction. You may find it helpful to write down your personal list of reasons, to help you discuss it with your family, friends and breast care team.
How long is the recovery period following a breast reconstruction?
This will depend very much on the sort of reconstruction that you have, how fit you are and what you need to be able to do, but could be at least six weeks for the more extensive techniques. Your surgeon can advise on this once you have made your choice of reconstructive option.
If I have an implant as part of my reconstruction, will I have to have it replaced? Can this be done on the NHS?
The usual advice is that an implant is likely to need to be replaced at some point although how soon is difficult to predict. Some manufacturers say that the implant itself should last a lifetime, but there are other reasons why it might need changing. At the current time, women having a breast implant inserted for reconstructive reasons on the NHS can have any replacement carried out by the NHS, however if the initial surgery is carried out privately this is not the case and there would be costs involved
Association of Breast Surgery
Irish Cancer Society
Look Good... Feel Better
The Center for Microsurgical Breast Reconstruction
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Breast Reconstruction: Your Choice
Rainsbury, D. & Straker, V. (2008), London, Class Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-85959-197-0
The Boudica Within: The extraordinary journey of women after breast cancer and reconstruction
by Elaine Sassoon published by The Erskine Press, 2007 ISBN 978-1-85297-097-0
Breakthrough Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Care
Macmillan Cancer Support – Breast cancer
Cancer Research UK – Breast cancer
Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres
Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline- 01629 813000 (24 hour helpline) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour discussion of breast reconstruction
Introduction to breast reconstruction
When to have breast reconstruction
Operations to make a new breast
Further operations and nipple reconstruction
Reconstruction in other situations
Where can you have breast reconstruction?