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Santa Monica Breast Center

Information About Reconstruction

If you are interested in breast reconstruction, some practical questions you may want to think about include:

  • Should my reconstruction be immediate or delayed?
  • Who will do my reconstruction?
  • Who will pay for my reconstruction?
  • Should I have mammograms after my reconstruction?

Should my reconstruction be immediate or delayed?

You've talked with your doctor and decided to have your breast reconstructed. Should you have it done at the same time as the mastectomy or wait until later? All types of breast reconstruction can be done either at the same time the cancerous breast is removed or later--even years later. Your doctor may suggest that one option is better for you, depending on your body and your health.

Advantages of Immediate Breast Reconstruction:

  • You wake up after cancer surgery with a new breast, or the beginnings of a new breast, already in place.
  • Most women feel better about seeing the results of the cancer surgery for the first time if they have had immediate reconstruction.
  • It saves time and effort, since you have two surgeries at the same time.

Disadvantages of Immediate Breast Reconstruction:

  • You must bear the strain and the possible problems of two surgeries at once.
  • There is no chance to adjust to the loss of the old breast before you get the new one.
  • You must deal emotionally with cancer and with reconstruction at the same time. Some women prefer to have the cancer treated first and to think about reconstruction afterwards.

Who will do my reconstruction?

The breast reconstruction is done by a plastic surgeon. While your surgical oncologist is responsible for your mastectomy and treating your cancer, your plastic surgeon focuses on reconstructing your breast. If you decide to have immediate reconstruction, the plastic surgeon will need to coordinate with your oncologist to plan your surgery.

Plastic surgeons are first trained as medical doctors. After medical school, they receive five to eight years of specialized training in plastic surgery. Plastic surgeons perform many complicated surgeries. They re-attach hands after accidents, reconstruct body parts for burn patients, and repair wounds. However, it is always good to ask if your surgeon has experience in breast reconstruction. You should make sure that your doctor is a "board certified" or "board eligible" plastic surgeon. Also, your surgeon should be willing to talk with you about both cosmetic and surgical issues. Remember that the surgeon works for you: you can choose to stop reconstruction at any point, from choosing no reconstruction to declining nipple reconstruction and tattooing.

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