Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women. In patients recovering from this disease, it may be necessary to remove the tumor tissue of the breast or even the entire breast. This can have some traumatic consequences. People may feel incomplete or think they don’t look feminine enough. Mastectomy refers to removing all or part of the breast due to breast cancer.
Breast reconstruction procedures can be performed concurrently with mastectomy procedures and can help breast cancer survivors cope with their loss.
How is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Performed?
Different surgical procedures can be used during breast reconstruction. The technique that combines skin expansion with mastectomy surgery is the most popular. This procedure is carried out in stages. After the breast is removed, a prosthesis that stretches the skin is placed under the skin for this application. After the procedure, the surgeon injects saline subcutaneously into this prosthesis. This process continues for weeks until the skin grows as desired. The prosthesis is removed in a second surgery, and a permanent prosthesis is placed after the skin has expanded as much as necessary. When using the flap reconstruction technique, the breast is reconstructed using tissues taken from various parts of the body. Sometimes it may be necessary to place a prosthesis under this tissue. This operation has several stages. The recovery time is longer than the skin expansion approach, and the surgical scar is larger. The benefit of flap reconstruction is that it restores the natural appearance of the breasts.
Who is Suitable for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery is a technique that can be applied to all patients whose breasts have been removed, although individuals with completely disappeared cancer tissue are more suitable for surgery.
Significant changes occur in the appearance and social life of the person who undergoes breast reconstruction surgery. According to a study conducted in the USA, 98% of patients undergoing breast reconstruction would want to repeat the same procedure if they had the same problem. Although the newly formed breast tissue does not look like the next surgery in terms of shape and features, only the patient will be able to notice these small changes. The goal of surgery is to achieve as similar an outcome as possible.
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. The duration depends on the technique used. Applications involving breast prostheses may take 1-2 hours with a hospital stay of 1-3 days. Applications involving the patient's own tissue may take 4-10 hours, with a hospital stay of 4-7 days. Drains are removed after one to four days to prevent fluid and blood accumulation after the procedure. When the patient's own tissue is used, it may take up to a week for patients with silicone prostheses to return to their normal social and professional lives. After surgery, patients should wait 4 to 8 weeks before starting activities such as moving heavy objects, having sex, or driving. After breast reconstruction surgery, bruising, swelling, and pain gradually decrease and eventually disappear. Your surgeon will determine when you will start your exercises and movements. In general, it is important to avoid sexual activity and strenuous exercise for three to six weeks.
Breast reconstruction operations usually take more than one session to complete. Additional procedures such as flap revision, breast tissue removal, breast reduction, or silicone prosthesis implantation may be considered following the breast reconstruction procedure.