When Is Breast Reconstruction Done?

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Many women in North Carolina who have been treated for breast cancer with a mastectomy may wish to restore the appearance of their breasts through reconstructive surgery. Breast reconstruction may be performed by a plastic surgeon either at the same time as the mastectomy, called an immediate reconstruction, or at a later time, called delayed breast reconstruction. Breast reconstruction can also involve a staged approach to treatment.

Choosing the Timing of Breast Reconstruction

There are several factors that may enter into the decision as to when to seek breast reconstruction. Many women in Charlotte prefer immediate breast reconstruction, as it takes place at the same time as their mastectomy and ensures continuity of appearance. Both one-stage and two-stage immediate breast reconstruction are options, depending on each woman’s circumstances. However, not all women may be eligible for immediate reconstruction, and a physical examination, risk factors like weight or smoking, or necessary treatments following the surgery may lead a plastic surgeon to advise delayed reconstruction.

If you will receive or have received a mastectomy and are considering breast reconstruction, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Enam Haque at Queen City Plastic Surgery may advise you about the timing of your reconstruction to achieve the best possible results. Dr. Haque would consult with your breast surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist to develop a plan to support your aesthetic and medical rehabilitation after breast surgery.

Immediate or Delayed Reconstruction

If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation after your mastectomy, your surgeon may advise you to wait until those treatments are complete to begin your breast reconstruction. In other cases, you may be able to begin the reconstruction process and complete it after chemotherapy or radiation treatment comes to an end. Radiation and chemotherapy may affect the volume, color, texture, and appearance of the breasts, especially if you have received implants as part of your breast reconstruction process.

In general, cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes or are greater than 5 centimeters in size are more likely to need radiation or chemotherapy treatment in addition to surgery. In most cases, completing chemotherapy or radiation will take place over the course of six months to one year. Stage I or Stage II breast cancers are less likely to need supplemental radiation or other treatments than women with Stage III or IV cancers.

A staged reconstruction may also be a great choice for some women. Here, a tissue expander or temporarily placed implant may be inserted after the breast tissue is removed during a mastectomy. This may help to preserve the shape of the breast and expand the skin before a more permanent reconstruction is performed using a silicone implant with or without a flap of skin from another donor site.

Types of Breast Reconstruction

There are two major types of breast reconstruction, and the type you choose may also affect the timing of your reconstruction. Dr. Haque may advise you about the best type of reconstruction to produce excellent results and fit your needs and lifestyle. You may choose a reconstruction that makes use of silicone or saline breast implants or one that uses natural flaps of tissue transferred from elsewhere in your body.

Breast reconstruction performed using breast implants is typically a less invasive, shorter surgery. However, the overall feel and appearance may be less natural than a reconstruction that makes use of fat, skin, and muscle from another part of the body. You can expect a longer hospital stay with a tissue flap breast reconstruction, and the procedure itself may take 4 to 10 hours. However, tissue flap breast reconstruction is permanent, while you may need to replace implants at some point during your life. 

Dr. Haque can advise you on the pros and cons of various different types of the reconstruction as well as options for saline and silicone implants in different shapes and sizes. Scheduling breast reconstruction is a complex decision involving your entire medical team, including your plastic surgeon, to produce the best results for your recovery and your desired outcomes.

Schedule a Breast Reconstruction Consultation in Charlotte, NC

Dr. Haque has guided countless women through the process of breast reconstruction after cancer treatment. Contact Queen City Plastic Surgery through our secure online contact form or call our conveniently located Charlotte office at 704-372-5685 to set up an appointment for an initial consultation.

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