8 things to consider before having breast reconstruction

Good Things Utah

Women in the United States currently have a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women.

Whether you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and may be undergoing a mastectomy or removal or the breast tissue – talking to a plastic surgeon before you begin treatment is important. Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital plastic surgeon, Christopher Shale, MD said, “That treatment plan can determine what type of reconstruction you’re able to have and the timing of surgery.”

A team of Intermountain Healthcare physicians works with patients to determine when and what type of breast surgery works best for each individual. Here are the 9 questions you should be asking:

1. Which method of reconstruction is best for me?

This is determined by your body shape, past surgery, current health, treatment needs, and personal preference. Talk to your surgeon to discuss options, risks, and benefits.

2. How long is the reconstruction process?

Timeline will vary depending on how many surgeries need to be done and the need for other cancer treatment. Typical reconstruction process takes 6 months to 1 year.

3. What if my natural breast does not match my reconstructed breast?

The goal is to create a breast that is symmetrical with the remaining natural breast. Augmentation of both breasts may be necessary to achieve desired result.

4. It has been ten years since I had my breasts removed, can I still have reconstruction surgery? Who pays?

In 1998, Congress passed the “Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act” which requires group health and individual insurance coverage for reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. Talk to your insurance or surgeon about your options.

5. What are the risks of breast reconstruction surgery? Does reconstruction change the risk of my cancer returning? Does it make cancer detection harder?

Risk of breast cancer recurrence depends on the stage of the disease, biological characteristics of the cancer and the additional breast cancer treatments. Reconstructive surgery has not been shown to increase the risk of cancer returning or make it harder to detect cancer if it does return.

6. What if I may need radiation?

You may want to delay breast reconstruction until you are finished with radiation therapy. Radiation may damage your reconstruction and affect your final cosmetic result.

7. What if I may need chemotherapy?

Breast reconstruction should not delay chemotherapy treatments. Usually your medical oncologist will wait until you have healed from your mastectomy and reconstruction before starting chemotherapy. Your surgeon and oncologist can discuss your specific treatment plan.

8. What is DIEP breast reconstruction?

DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap reconstruction restores the breast using a patient’s skin and fatty tissue from the lower abdomen below the belly button. The procedure results in a “tummy tuck” as well.

The DIEP flap procedure is ideal for women with an active lifestyle as well as for those who have undergone double mastectomy who don’t want implant-based reconstruction. DIEP flap breast reconstruction is popular because it doesn’t move or cut muscle (which means shorter recovery time).

Tammy Spackman had her first mammogram at age 57 after her primary care physician encouraged her to go in. She kept putting it off, she says, and now regrets she put it off for so long. That first mammogram discovered not one, but two cancerous areas, so she underwent a mastectomy. She opted for the DIEP flap option for reconstruction – where they took part of her own tissue and constructed a new breast. She credits the team of doctors at Intermountain for giving her life back.

If you’re consider breast reconstruction please visit Intermountain Healthcare for more information.

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