Choosing Breast Reconstruction
With breast reconstruction, being emotionally ready is just as important as being physically ready. Whatever choice you make, be sure you’re doing it for you — not to make someone else happy or because you feel like it’s “just the next step.” Take time to learn about your options and choose what’s right for you.
When Should I Have Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Some women who’ve lost a breast to a trauma may have to prioritize other injuries or physical issues before considering reconstruction. Some women with cancer want to start the process during their initial mastectomy, while others prefer to wait until they’re officially in remission. Others may not see breast reconstruction as a priority at all, or don’t want to go through additional surgery.
There’s no reason to rush your decision when it comes to breast reconstruction surgery. Even women who had their initial breast surgery years ago may still have options.
Both immediate and delayed reconstruction surgeries have benefits and drawbacks.
For immediate reconstruction, breast reconstruction begins during the actual mastectomy. It offers the physical and emotional advantage of waking from the initial surgery with a visible breast shape and reconstruction well underway. Immediate reconstruction achieves the best cosmetic results since it maximizes the preservation of skin and tissue. However, some women might not be ready for it because of the severity of their cancer.
It’s never too late for breast reconstruction. Delaying surgery is a good option for women who’ve already had a mastectomy or have an extremely advanced cancer and need urgent treatment. Delayed breast reconstruction generally yields a slightly less aesthetic result than immediate reconstruction. It may not be the best option for you if the idea of being without a breast for an extended period of time is too emotionally difficult.
Choosing Reconstruction: Next Steps
Choosing to have breast reconstruction is a life-changing decision that calls for an in-depth discussion with an expert who specializes in the procedure. At El Camino Health, your initial consultation takes about an hour.
The goal of the consultation is to gather the information you need to make an informed decision about the type of breast reconstruction that’s most appropriate for you. You may find it helpful to get familiar with the most common breast reconstruction procedures before your consultation. You and your doctor will also discuss what you can expect before, during and after your surgery. Breast reconstruction surgeons at El Camino Health expertly perform all at the latest reconstructive techniques.
During the initial meeting, you can expect your plastic surgeon to do the following:
- Take a thorough medical history and evaluate your general health status, including any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors.
- Examine your chest and breast area, take measurements, evaluate skin quality and make a note of the placement of your nipples and areolae, if appropriate.
- Take photographs for your medical record.
- Inform you of any risks or potential complications.
- Explain your options and recommend a course of treatment.
Choosing a Surgeon
Plastic surgeons are specially trained in reconstructing tissue to improve cosmetic appearance. All breast reconstruction surgeons at El Camino Health are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
ASPS members share these important qualifications:
- Accredited facilities – Operating only in accredited medical facilities.
- Continued education – Fulfilling continuing medical education requirements.
- Ethics – Adhering to a strict code of ethics.
- Experience – Training and experience in all plastic surgery procedures, including breast, body and facial reconstruction.
- Training – At least five years of surgical training, including a minimum of two years in plastic surgery.
Meeting these core competencies doesn’t necessarily make a doctor an expert in breast reconstruction. Look for a surgeon who’s experienced specifically in breast reconstruction and oncoplastics (surgery that combines expertise in oncology and plastic surgery) and can show photos of their results.
El Camino Health works with many well-trained surgeons with a variety of skill sets. We can help you find a doctor who’s right for you.