- Guide to Breast Cancer
- Take the Breast Cancer Quiz
- Young Women & Breast Cancer
- Find a local Surgeon in your town
- Preventive mastectomy facts*
- What is preventive mastectomy, and what types of procedures are used in preventive mastectomy?
- Why would a woman consider undergoing preventive mastectomy?
- How effective is preventive mastectomy in preventing or reducing the risk of breast cancer?
- What are the possible drawbacks of preventive mastectomy?
- What alternatives to surgery exist for preventing or reducing the risk of breast cancer?
- What is breast reconstruction?
- What type of follow-up care is needed after reconstructive surgery?
- Where can a person find more information about breast implants?
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 http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/screening-mammograms on the Internet.)