Bloomfield Hills, MI – If you are a breast cancer survivor, you’ve already been through so much, and having to feel self-conscious about your body is not something you should have to worry about. While breast cancer treatment has advanced tremendously, and in many cases mastectomy is no longer needed, there are still many women in the U.S. who undergo total mastectomies each year. And for these women, breast reconstruction can provide relief and healing.
In most instances, breast reconstruction will need to be done in stages. Together with her plastic surgeon, the patient will decide which type of reconstruction procedure is right for her – breast implants, flap surgery, or a combination of both. You may be able to combine your reconstruction with your mastectomy, or you may choose to wait until you have healed from the mastectomy to move forward.
In the first stage of the procedure, the surgeon will place a tissue expander under the chest muscle. The expander will be gradually filled with saline to stretch the muscle and create a pocket for the implant to be placed. After reaching the desired size, the expander will stay in place for several weeks to ensure the scar tissue has a chance to heal.
The next step for the patient is to choose the type of implant that will be ideal. Silicone implants are more natural and softer feeling than saline implants. During the procedure, the expander will be removed and replaced with the implant. The surgeon will then reconstruct the nipple, and an areola will be tattooed to give the reconstructed breast the most natural look possible.
Some patients may not desire a breast implant, but would still like to undergo breast reconstruction. For these patients, flap surgery may be an option. A TRAM flap uses muscle, fat and skin from the patient’s own abdomen to reconstruct a breast. Depending on your surgeon’s preferences and ability, the flap can remain attached to its original blood supply and then moved up through the chest wall, or it can be removed and formed into a breast-shaped mound. In some cases, patients require both flap surgery and breast implants, if there isn’t enough tissue to create a full breast mound.
Patients will be required to wear an elastic bandage and/or support bra to minimize swelling and provide support for the newly reconstructed breast. A draining tube will be inserted under the skin to remove any excess fluid or blood, but will be removed within a few days following surgery. You will be given a prescription for pain medication to help with discomfort.
Over the following weeks, as the swelling subsides, patients will see their newly reconstructed breasts taking shape.
“Breast reconstruction surgery is one of the most rewarding things I do,” says Dr. Ali, a Michigan plastic surgeon. “A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, and then to have to worry about your physical appearance after can just put added stress on patients. Being able to provide patients with natural looking breasts after a mastectomy can help them gain back some confidence that may have been lost after their diagnosis, and I am so humbled to be able to be a part of their journey back to health.”
To learn more about breast reconstruction, schedule a consultation with Dr. Ali today.
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