Breast reconstruction is commonly performed for women who have had a mastectomy (removal of a breast due to cancer or a pre-cancerous condition) or who may have significant breast deformities. Many women feel very insecure or self-conscious about the appearance of their breasts following mastectomy. Breast reconstruction allows many of their natural curves to be restored and can dramatically improve their quality of life and self-esteem.
Breast reconstruction is usually accomplished in stages and can span six to twelve months. Breast reconstruction can be classified as immediate or delayed. Immediate reconstruction means the surgical reconstruction is started at the time of the mastectomy. Reconstruction performed anytime after a mastectomy is considered delayed. Reconstruction can be performed using either tissue expanders and implants or autogenous tissues (natural tissues from the abdomen or back). Good to excellent results can be obtained with either procedure.
The first stage of reconstruction, which is usually performed at the time of the mastectomy, is the longest and most complex. Subsequent surgeries are usually performed on an outpatient basis and involve much less discomfort with a more rapid recovery. Often, the other breast needs to be modified in order to achieve symmetry. This might require breast augmentation, breast reduction, or breast lift surgery.