Women who have undergone a mastectomy due to breast cancer (or prophylactically) have the option to reconstruct their breasts. The surgeons at VPS use constantly evolving microsurgical techniques and contemporary implant technology to restore form and shape.
There are several different breast reconstruction options available, including implant-based, microsurgical free flap and local tissue reconstruction.
Determining which type of breast reconstruction procedure is best for you is dependent on several factors. These include body type, expectations and radiotherapy treatment requirements. Our Specialist Plastic Surgeons will discuss these factors during your consultation and advise you on the ideal reconstructive option for you.
Breast reconstruction categories
There are two things to consider when discussing your reconstructive surgery options with your surgeon:
- Timing of surgery. Deciding whether to have an immediate or delayed reconstruction following a mas-tectomy.
- Reconstruction method. Breast reconstruction methods include tissue expanders and breast implants, using your own muscle and tissue to create a breast or a combination of the two.
Depending on your needs and circumstances, you may need to undergo multiple procedures throughout your reconstruction journey.
The breast reconstruction process
All breast reconstruction procedures are performed under general anaesthesia in an accredited hospital facility.
Your surgeon will take you through the specifics of your surgery/s during your consultation including; what is involved in each procedure, the number of procedures required, duration of each procedure and length of hospital stay.
If you are considering breast reconstruction, you should review the Patient Information Leaflets that correspond to the type of breast implant you choose, as available via the links below. It is then recommended that you discuss any questions and concerns you have with your surgeon.
Breast Reconstruction Before and After
Once you have met with your surgeon and a clinical plan has been established, our client support officers will organise a quote. Your quote will include a fee for your surgeon as well as an estimate of anaesthetist and hospital fees. There may also be costs associated with medication, pathology and post-surgery garments.
In most instances, breast reconstruction is considered medically necessary, and will attract a Medicare item number. If you are insured, your private health insurer may also cover some of the costs of your procedure, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.
Prior to your procedure, it’s important to stay healthy. This means eating the right foods, getting enough sleep and exercise, and keeping your immune system strong. It’s also im-portant to prepare for your recovery before your breast reconstruction. You may wish to pre-prepare some healthy meals, purchase some comfortable loose clothing and ice packs, and fill any prescriptions you may need in the week following surgery.
You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and stay with you for a couple of days. This is particularly necessary if you have small children at home – you will need someone to assist you. You may wish to set up a recovery area where you can relax and sleep in an elevated position.
Discomfort, swelling, bruising and numbness are all normal after a breast reconstruction. This will ease over the following weeks, and our clinic team will be able to offer you advice on effective pain management. Compression garments are often worn after surgery to re-duce swelling and increase comfort during recovery. To drain excess fluid, you may have drains which will be managed with the help of nursing staff.
Patients need several days to rest and recover after a reconstruction procedure. During the first few weeks after the reconstruction, heavy lifting, strenuous exercise and swimming is discouraged.
In some cases patients may require nipple reconstruction. The new nipple is reconstructed using small pieces of skin from the reconstructed breast or with the help of a medical tattoo-ist.
If you choose to undergo a nipple reconstruction you can also seek the services of a medical tattooist to recreate your areola.
Several factors are considered when deciding on the best breast reconstruction method, including the patient’s health, surgical history, age and the size and shape of the breasts.
For patients considering reconstruction with implants, the breast will first be assessed to ensure it is in a suitable condition to support an implant. This type of reconstruction will require several follow-up visits for expander adjustments and an additional surgical procedure to exchange the expander for a more permanent breast implant.
Reconstruction methods including free flaps, utilise the body’s own tissue to recreate a breast mound. This is a longer, more technical procedure, with a longer recovery time, however there is often no need for additional procedures.
All surgical and invasive procedures carry risk, and these will be discussed during your consultation with your Specialist Plastic Surgeon. All of our procedures are carried out in accredited hospital facilities with assistance from FANZCA qualified anaesthetists.
You will be provided with procedure specific information prior to your surgery with instructions to ensure that you are in prime condition prior to your procedure. You will also be provided with post-operative instructions outlining proper aftercare, including things to be aware of. Our specialised clinical team is available should you have any questions or concerns.
There is no proof that reconstructing the breasts makes it more difficult to detect cancer. Women who undergo a mastectomy will still need to continue regular self-checks and mammograms to ensure their ongoing breast health.
Regardless of the reconstruction method used, be sure to mention the surgery to your technician, this is particularly true if you’ve chosen an implant. The mammogram procedure is adjusted slightly to compensate for the implant.
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