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Breast reconstruction is a procedure to recreate all or part of a breast that has been surgically removed. Its purpose is to make breasts look natural and balanced when the patient is wearing clothing. It is an important, yet an ignored component of treatment for breast cancer. It is often missed in the conversation between the patient and her surgical team for various reasons, most commonly, due to lack of awareness and constraint of resources.
DOES SHE WANT BREAST RECONSTRUCTION?
The patient may be offered breast reconstruction if she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has had or will be having a mastectomy. It may also be considered if a person has been found to have a genetic mutation that predisposes her to breast cancer, and would be undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy. It is however, not necessary to undergo breast reconstruction and some patients may decide that they are not ready for the procedure for various reasons. Many may choose to wear a breast prosthesis, which is an artificial device worn in the brassiere of the patient, that allows a better fit in clothing and reduces the lop-sided feeling that a missing breast may create for some.
WHEN DOES SHE WANT TO HAVE BREAST RECONSTRUCTION?
Most breast reconstructions can be done at the same time as the mastectomy. It is called “IMMEDIATE RECONSTRUCTION”. Reconstruction may also be done weeks, months or years later, known as “DELAYED RECONSTRUCTION”. It is done after completion of any other breast cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, or whenever the patient decides to go for it later. The choice depends on many factors, such as clinical staging of disease, medical conditions, lifestyle and preference. The decision to undergo this surgery is best decided in discussion with the surgeon.
WHAT TYPE OF RECONSTRUCTION DOES SHE WANT?
Breast reconstruction may be done using an “IMPLANT” or tissue from another part of the body, or a combination of the two. Both the patient and her surgeon should discuss the best method for her considering her body shape, any past surgeries and current health. The final decision is also influenced by the patient’s treatment needs and her personal preferences. No matter which reconstructive option is chosen, it is important to realise that the process takes time to achieve the final result and usually requires multiple surgeries.