When Is The Best Time For Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Nothing is easy about a breast cancer diagnosis. First, there’s the overwhelming uncertainty, followed by the avalanche of information to process. Then, there are the endless decisions to make. If you reach the point where a mastectomy is required, one of the choices you’ll need to make involves whether – and when – to have breast reconstruction surgery.
As we observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, we’re reminded of the number of women who face such choices each year. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, with an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in 2016. Of them, nearly 41,000 will die from breast cancer, making it the second leading cause of death in women behind heart disease.
Breast cancer is treated in many different ways, but one common result of treatment is the complete or partial removal of the breast. In these cases, a plastic surgeon can be brought in to help reconstruct the breast to a natural shape. Many women struggle with the decision whether to have the reconstruction performed at the time of the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at some point in the future (delayed reconstruction.)
How Breast Reconstruction Surgery Works
When Dr. Timothy Janiga performs breast reconstruction, he has several techniques he can employ. The first of these uses a tissue expander, which is placed under the pectoralis major muscle on the chest wall. The expander acts as a temporary spacer to stretch the muscle and skin to create a breast mound. Later on, a second operation is required to remove the expander and place an implant.
The second technique involves using the patient’s own body tissue. With this procedure, a muscle from the back (latissimus dorsi) is rotated around to the chest wall to form a new breast. Often, there is an implant placed under the muscle to provide more volume to the breast.
Another common technique uses tissue from the abdomen with the tissue being moved directly into the mastectomy defect on the chest wall. This third technique is more involved and has a longer recovery time associated with it.
Finding the right technique for your situation depends on factors that include the type of cancer you’re suffering from and whether radiation therapy is required. In the end, each situation is different and requires a specialized consultation with your plastic surgeon.
As to whether you have breast reconstruction performed at the time of your mastectomy or afterward is a deeply personal choice. However, a recent article in US News & World Report provides some guidance.
In the article, Dr. Minas Chrysopulo, micro surgeon with the PMRA Center for Advanced Breast Reconstruction advises, “ideally, it should be done at the same time as the mastectomy,” suggesting that this route is particularly advisable for patients with stage 1 or stage 2 breast cancer.
For those who wait, the time frame for reconstructive surgery is roughly six weeks to six months post mastectomy.
While some find waiting to have reconstructive breast surgery performed later to be the best option, others find comfort in waking up from mastectomy surgery with intact breasts and no further surgeries to undergo. In the end, the choice you make will be the one that’s best for you. To learn more about reconstructive breast surgery, contact Dr. Timothy Janiga for a consultation or call us at 775-398-4600.