Almost 55,000 women around the world get affected by breast cancer every year. Only half of these women who get a surgery done for breast cancer undergo a mastectomy, the removal of the whole breast. After the removal happens, there are certain methods available for the reconstruction of the breast. The two most common types of breast reconstruction today are breast implants and autologous surgery. Most of us are still unaware of the facts about breast reconstruction, and it is important for us to know all about it.
Breast Implant Surgery
Breast implant surgery involves the insertion of a semi-permanent implant, which is known as expander implant. This implantation is done underneath the chest muscle. After the insertion, it is expanded so that a pocket gets created. During the second operation, this implant is changed to a permanent one. This implant can also be created with a sheet of collagen to work as permanent implants. These collagen implants are known as acellular dermal matrix (ADM) and is shaped like an internal bra. This kind of breast reconstruction can be done in a single operation.
In the autologous surgery, the tissue for the reconstruction of the breast is taken from another part of the body, such as the thigh, back, or stomach to rebuild and shape the breast. In this type of surgery, the tissue for breast reconstruction is often taken from the abdomen.
When Can A Reconstruction Be Done?
The most common question that comes to people’s minds is, “How soon can a reconstruction be done after mastectomy?”. Most of the breast cancer patients can get an immediate reconstruction done after surgery. However, those patients who need to undergo radiotherapy are always advised to get a reconstruction done only after complete healing. Breast reconstruction is also possible after many months and years after breast surgery.
How Many Operations?
Except expander implant surgery, other breast reconstruction surgeries are just one operation. In expander implant surgery, it is done in two stages as a period of few months is required for the expansion to happen. However, many plastic surgeons suggest an additional surgery to reduce or enhance the other breast so that both look symmetrical. The plastic surgery of the healthy breast requires a few more visits to get the best cosmetic result.
The ‘Feel’ Of The New Breast
It is an unfortunate fact that although breast reconstruction rebuilds the shape of the breasts, it does not restore the same sensation. However, in autologous reconstruction, the breasts are softer and the feeling is more natural as the new breast is made of a living tissue.
Common Side Effects
Like most surgeries, breast reconstruction too has many side effects. There is pain, itchiness, inflammation, bruising and swelling, but certain painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicine, and other medicines help the new breast and the scars heal. A period of six months can easily cure the side effects and help you appreciate your new breast.
Complicated side effects like fluid buildup or an infection around the wound sites normally get re-absorbed naturally with time. However, larger amounts of these may need to be drawn off with a syringe by a breast care nurse or a surgeon. Infections in implant surgeries need to be treated with antibiotics, and in some cases, the implant needs to be taken out and redone after a period of three months.
The Healing Process
A breast reconstruction surgery needs time to heal. When a few tips are followed, the healing process gets easier.
1. Don’t lift or stretch the arm on the surgery-side too above the shoulder or behind the back.
2. Avoid lifting any heavy items.
3. Avoid too much of pushing and pulling of items, and do not push yourself up off the bed.
4. Wear a bra up at the front, swivel it round, and the surgery-side arm first.
5. Avoid getting the dressing wet under the shower until the dressing has been removed.
6. Do not drive until you can safely use the handbrake and gear-stick or do an emergency stop.
Does An Implant Need Any Change Or Removal?
Most implants do not require any change or removal and last for life. However, some patients request a change if the tissue around the implant changes, or some request a change in shape or size. In these cases, surgeons check if any change or removal can be done only if the breast reconstruction surgery has been done 10 to 15 years ago. Autologous surgery is more permanent as the tissues in the breast ages as the person ages and generally, this type breast reconstruction requires only a few adjustments over time.