When to have breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction involves recreating the breast to match the remaining natural breast as closely as possible. For women who are facing or have had a double mastectomy, surgery can rebuild both breasts. 

The main aim is to recreate the breast shape and volume. Depending on when this happens, this is known as
•  Immediate reconstruction – when it happens at the same time as your mastectomy
•  Delayed reconstruction – at a later date when your cancer treatment has been completed 

Immediate Reconstruction

In immediate breast reconstruction it is often possible to preserve most of the breast skin. In this case only a small disc of skin including the right nipple and areola has been removed at the mastectomy. This skin disc and the breast volume has been replaced using a flap. A nipple areola reconstruction has also been done

The benefits of immediate reconstruction are:
•  The cosmetic results are usually better
•  More of the skin of your breast can be preserved
•  The scarring on the breast itself is usually less
•  You will only usually need one major anaesthetic and recovery period
•  It will involve only one stay in hospital
•  You will not have to spend any time without a breast

Delayed Reconstruction

The benefits of delayed reconstruction are:
•  Your cancer treatment can proceed without delay
•  The surgery is carried out in two stages, resulting in an easier and shorter recovery following each procedure
•  There is time to consider whether reconstruction is right for you
•  There is less for you to deal with, all at once

Sometimes immediate reconstruction is not recommended or possible, usually because of the type of tumour or the need for further treatments such as radiotherapy. If immediate reconstruction is an option for you, then the pros and cons will be discussed with you to help you make a decision

No reconstruction

Finally, you may choose not to have your breast reconstructed at all. Many women feel radically changed by their cancer experience, and some feel that a flat chest is an apt acknowledgement and expression of their post-cancer persona. Others are very satisfied choosing to wear a prosthetic breast in their bra rather than have to undergo more surgery, although some women find it restricts their choice of clothing.

The important thing is that it is your choice. Talking to other women who have undergone treatment can often help you decide whether or not breast reconstruction is the right option for you. We hope that this guide will help you discuss it with other women, your friends, family and the health professionals looking after you so that you can make a decision

Even if you choose not to have a reconstruction initially, you can consider a delayed reconstruction at a later date if you change your mind.

Read more

Introduction to breast reconstruction
Operations to make a new breast
Further operations and nipple reconstruction
Reconstruction in other situations
Where can you have breast reconstruction?
Other questions and where to get more information
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