Breast cancer is unfortunately a common health risk for any woman, and understandably, the idea of losing one or both breasts because of a battle with or high risk for cancer can be more than distressing. We’ve come a long way with breast reconstruction surgery, which allows breast cancer survivors to rebuild their form and regain the confidence so many of them have lost. One of the first steps in this process is educating yourself about your surgery and about the decisions you’ll be making, so as a board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction, I’ve compiled and dispelled some of the most common myths about the procedure.
Myth: Breast reconstruction is only for mastectomy patients.
For patients whose breast cancer treatment only required a lumpectomy (removing only the cancerous tissue instead of removing the whole breast), their surgery may leave them with breasts that are different sizes or shapes, and breast reconstruction is often an option which can help these women restore a more natural-looking appearance. Depending on their unique needs, this may involve fat transfer (using purified fat from another area like the abdomen), breast implants, breast reduction, or another strategy.
Myth: You need to have time to heal between your mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
This depends on the patient. Some women are candidates for immediate breast reconstruction, which actually takes place during the same surgery as the cancer removal. In other cases, depending on the stage of the cancer, the anticipated treatment plan, and other factors, delayed reconstruction may be a better option. In this situation, the reconstruction could take place anywhere from weeks to years after the mastectomy.
Myth: Breast reconstruction requires a breast implant.
While some women are very happy with using breast implants for reconstruction, this is only one potential option. You may also be a candidate for autologous breast reconstruction, which uses your body’s own natural tissue (like muscle, fat, and/or skin from the abdomen or back) to reshape your breast. In some cases, both an implant and your own tissue are used together to achieve the best possible result. Your options will depend on your unique anatomy and your specific circumstances, all of which we can discuss during a consultation.
Myth: Many women aren’t candidates for breast reconstruction.
In fact, because of the wide variety of options available, most breast cancer survivors do have the option of breast reconstruction. Your reconstructive surgery will be tailored to your specific needs and may combine a variety of different methods so that you can experience the safest and most successful possible results.
Myth: Breast reconstruction can make breast cancer recurrence more likely to happen and more difficult to detect.
It’s understandable that a breast cancer survivor or someone who is genetically predisposed to breast cancer would be concerned about recurrence. The good news is that studies have shown no increase in breast cancer risk after reconstruction, nor have they found that reconstructive surgery makes detecting or treating breast cancer more difficult in the future.
Choosing the timing, method, and other details about your breast reconstruction surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly, but the good news is that you aren’t in it alone. Beyond your own emotional support system, I’m happy to use my knowledge and experience to guide you throughout the process. To start discussing your option, schedule a consultation with me, Dr. Franklyn Elliott. Or, for more plastic surgery information and helpful tips, join me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.