Battling breast cancer can take a toll on a woman’s physical appearance and emotional well-being. Sometimes, the breast(s) are completely removed during the mastectomy to the tremendous emotional and physical dismay of the patient. The realization that the breast(s) need to be removed following an already arduous cancer battle is the furthest thing from reassuring, and, sadly, it is a realization that far too many women confront every day.
While it may not fully return what has been lost emotionally and physically, breast reconstruction can help women who have been forced to deal with cancer overcome the physical aspect of losing their breast(s). Breast reconstruction can be performed to restore all or part of the breast to its original appearance. San Diego plastic surgeon, Dr. Larry Pollack, has performed more than 2,000 breast reconstruction procedures over the last 20 years. Through surgery, he can improve a woman’s self-confidence and provide natural-looking results.
Am I a Candidate for Breast Reconstruction?
Good candidates for breast reconstruction surgery are in good overall health and have realistic expectations of the surgery. Potential patients should have some or all of the following conditions:
- Will be undergoing lumpectomy or mastectomy, or have already had one of these procedures
- A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or less
- Not currently undergoing radiation therapy
How Is Breast Reconstruction Performed?
Breast reconstruction is performed under general anesthesia on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the technique to be used. Dr. Pollack offers a wide range of reconstruction options for patients in order to provide them with a method that will suit their reconstruction needs.
Tissue Expander/Implant Reconstruction
After the skin and muscle of the chest are expanded, an implant is placed in the breast area and filled with a sterile saline solution. During the next few treatments, the implant is gradually filled with more solution in order to expand the breast tissue even further. Once the desired breasts size is achieved, the expander is removed and a permanent implant is placed in the breast pocket.
Latissimus Dorsi Flap Reconstruction
Muscle, skin, and fat are taken from the patient’s back and relocated to the front of the chest to create a breast. If more volume is needed to match the symmetry of the opposite breast, an implant may be placed under the tissue.
TRAM Flap Reconstruction
This technique is performed using donor skin, muscle, and fat from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breast. A tunnel may be created through the chest wall to keep the tissue attached to the original blood supply, or the tissue may be completely detached.
After the necessary steps are taken to reconstruct the breasts, the areolas and nipples will be reconstructed using the patient’s own skin.
What Is Discussed During My Breast Reconstruction Consultation?
When you meet with Dr. Pollack for your initial consultation, you will discuss your goals and concerns with him in detail, and he will customize the procedure to suit your needs. Although some patients get a breast reconstruction after their mastectomy is complete, an increasing number of people are choosing to undergo breast reconstruction during the mastectomy process.
What Can I Expect From My Breast Reconstruction Recovery?
Pain and discomfort may be present for the first few days after surgery, but pain medication will help relieve these symptoms. It may take a few weeks before patients feel well enough to return to work and their daily activities.
To ensure a proper recovery and reduce the risk of complications, such as bleeding and infection, patients should carefully follow Dr. Pollack’s postoperative instructions. Patients are typically very satisfied with the results of their procedure and usually develop a new lease on life with their restored breasts.
How Much Does Breast Reconstruction Cost?
The total cost of a breast reconstruction procedure depends on various factors, including the facility fee, anesthesia fee, and the extent of the reconstruction.
Is Breast Reconstruction Covered by Insurance?
Generally, most insurance companies will cover some or all of the cost of surgery. However, to know exactly what will be paid for and to see if follow up treatments will be accounted for, it is best to contact your insurance holder to see what you qualify for.
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) of 1998 requires insurance companies in the United States to cover the cost of breast reconstruction as long as insurance covers the cost of the initial mastectomy. It is important for women to reach out to their provider to learn and ensure that their surgery is covered.
Frequently Asked Questions About Breast Reconstruction
Are implants or tissue flaps better for my breast reconstruction?
Women can choose breast implants or tissue flaps for their breast reconstruction. There are pros and cons to both options. While breast implants run the risk of implant complications (rupture, capsular contracture, etc.) and require a two-stage process with a tissue expander, they are less invasive (since tissue does not have to be removed from another part of the body) and often require a shorter recovery period. Dr. Pollack will discuss all of your options (which may also include combining the two therapies) during your consultation.
Am I a candidate for immediate reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction can be performed at the same time as your mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or months or years down the line (delayed reconstruction). While many women would prefer immediate reconstruction—as they will never have to see themselves without their breast—it is not a possible option for women who are still undergoing treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
If I only need reconstruction on one breast, will I need additional plastic surgery on the other?
While some women choose to undergo a double mastectomy (where both breasts are removed), many women only undergo a mastectomy on the breast in which the cancerous tissue was found. While breast reconstruction, with implants or flaps, aims to restore a symmetrical breast appearance, some women choose to combine breast reconstruction with aesthetic breast surgery of the opposite breast. To match the shape, size, or projection of the breasts, women can choose to enhance the opposite breast with breast augmentation, breast reduction, or breast lift surgery.
Interested in Learning More?
We welcome you to schedule a consultation with our board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Pollack, for all of your breast reconstruction needs. His keen knowledge and vast experience in performing this specific type of treatment enable him to provide each patient with a safe and effective breast reconstructive procedure. Please call (858) 215-6143 to schedule your consultation today.
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Dr. Pollack is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is dedicated to providing patients with safe and effective procedures. He has over 20 years of experience in the field of plastic surgery and looks forward to meeting you. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Pollack, please call our La Jolla practice at 858-215-6143 today.