Preventive Mastectomy: Questions and Answers

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What is breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery procedure in which the shape of the breast is rebuilt. Many women who choose to have preventive mastectomy also decide to have breast reconstruction, either at the time of the mastectomy or at some later time.

Before performing breast reconstruction, the plastic surgeon carefully examines the breasts and discusses the reconstruction options. In one type of reconstructive procedure, the surgeon inserts an implant (a balloon-like device filled with saline or silicone) under the skin and the chest muscles. Another procedure, called tissue flap reconstruction, uses skin, fat, and muscle from the woman's abdomen, back, or buttocks to create the breast shape. The surgeon will discuss with the patient any limitations on exercise or arm motion that might result from these operations.

What type of follow-up care is needed after reconstructive surgery?

Women who have reconstructive surgery are monitored carefully to detect and treat complications, such as infection, movement of the implant, or contracture (the formation of a firm, fibrous shell or scar tissue around the implant caused by the body's reaction to the implant). Women who have tissue flap reconstruction may want to ask their surgeon about physical therapy, which can help them adjust to limitations in activity and exercise after surgery. Routine screening for breast cancer is also part of the postoperative follow-up, because the risk of cancer cannot be completely eliminated. When women with breast implants have mammograms, they should tell the radiology technician about the implant. Special procedures may be necessary to improve the accuracy of the mammogram and to avoid damaging the implant. However, women who have had reconstructive surgery on both breasts should ask their doctors whether mammograms are still necessary. (More information about mammograms can be found in the NCI fact sheet, Screening Mammograms: Questions and Answers, at on the Internet.)

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  • Preventive Mastectomy - Experience

    Please describe your experience with mastectomy.

  • Preventive Mastectomy - Reconstruction

    Did you have breast reconstruction after undergoing preventive mastectomy?

  • Preventive Mastectomy - Breast Cancer

    Did you get breast cancer despite having a preventive mastectomy?

  • Preventive Mastectomy - Procedure

    What kind of preventive mastectomy procedure did you have, a total mastectomy or a subcutaneous mastectomy?


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