Breast reconstruction is a series of surgical procedures performed to recreate a breast. Reconstructions are commonly begun after portions of one or both breasts are removed as a treatment for breast cancer. A breast may need to be refashioned for other reasons such as trauma or to correct abnormalities that occur during breast development.
Breast reconstruction is performed in two stages, with the ultimate goal of creating a breast that looks and feels as natural as possible. It is important to remember that while a good result may closely mimic a normal breast, there will inevitably be scars and some loss of sensation. The reconstructed breast cannot exactly match the original.
The first step is to create a structure called a breast mound. This can be accomplished using artificial materials called breast implants, or by using tissues from other parts of the woman’s body. The second step involves creating a balance between the newly constructed breast and the breast on the opposite side. The nipple and areolar complex are recreated. This is usually done several months after the mound is created, to allow swelling to subside. Other procedures may be necessary, such as lifting the opposite breast (mastopexy) or making it larger or smaller to match the reconstructed breast.
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RecoveryHealing time after breast reconstruction surgery varies from patient to patient. Youâ€™ll be sent home from the hospital or clinic wearing special wound dressings, and you may be fitted with a uniquely designed bra that will give you comfort and support while protecting the operative site.
If you experience sharp chest pains, shortness of breath or an irregular heartbeat in the days following the procedure, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, follow your doctorâ€™s specific instructions closely and remember that pain, bruising and swelling are normal side effects of surgery.