Some women are not candidates for breast-conserving surgery and need to have a mastectomy. A mastectomy involves the surgical removal of all the breast tissue. Breast reconstructive surgery is the procedure of rebuilding a total breast after mastectomy. The nipple can also be reconstructed, if desired.
Usually two or three operations are required to complete breast reconstruction, and surgery is often performed on the other breast to improve shape and symmetry. Many women are able to begin the process of reconstruction at the time of mastectomy, also known as immediate reconstruction. For various reasons, reconstruction at the time of mastectomy may not be safe, and your surgeon will recommend delayed breast reconstruction.
There are several different techniques to reconstruct a breast, all of which fall into two basic categories:
- Implant-based reconstruction – using a gel implant with or without a tissue expander
- Autologous reconstruction – using a woman’s own tissue in the form of a flap or graft
A combination of both techniques is sometimes required.