Breast reconstruction is an incredibly rewarding experience. With today’s surgical techniques, women’s recreated breasts can closely match natural breasts in appearance and form. The breast reconstruction procedure may be performed immediately after mastectomy or delayed for weeks, months, or even years. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of immediate vs. delayed breast reconstruction.
An Overview of Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is conducted in one of the following ways. With the tissue expander technique, a temporary tissue expander is inserted into the chest and gradually filled with saline over a few months. Once the skin has stretched, the expander is replaced with a more permanent breast implant. The other technique is the flap technique, which harvests tissue from your abdomen, back, or elsewhere on your body. This tissue is used to recreate the breast mound. Depending on the chosen technique, women may have to undergo breast reconstruction in stages. Often, women will need a follow-up surgery to replace an expander with a breast implant or to reconstruct the nipple/areolar complex.
Immediate Breast Reconstruction
Immediate breast reconstruction is performed immediately following the mastectomy during the same surgery. The woman will awaken from surgery with a newly created breast mound, never having had to experience life without the breast.
- Reduced surgeries: By combining these procedures, women will not have to undergo as many surgeries. This reduces the recovery experience and the expense.
- Less emotional trauma: Undergoing the procedures concurrently usually leads to less emotional trauma, as women do not have to get used to the loss of a breast. This can also minimize emotional trauma from social interactions.
- Shorter reconstruction timeline: As reconstruction often includes multiple steps, combining the first step with mastectomy shortens the overall reconstruction time frame.
- Better cosmetic results: Immediate breast reconstruction yields better cosmetic results than delayed breast reconstruction.
- Longer initial recovery: By combining mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction, the initial recovery period will be longer.
- Requires complete cancer removal: Immediate breast reconstruction requires cancer treatment to be completed with the mastectomy due to potential complications at the reconstruction site. Patients who require additional treatments such as radiation may not qualify for immediate reconstruction.
- Difficult to plan: Sometimes cancer treatment and radiation therapy are difficult to plan, as they are highly personalized. This can make it difficult to plan for immediate breast reconstruction.
Delayed Breast Reconstruction
Delayed breast reconstruction is performed weeks, months, or years after the original mastectomy. It often leads to an adjustment period for the woman to get used to her new breast tissue, much like the emotional adjustment period after the initial mastectomy.
- Additional cancer treatments: Women can undergo additional cancer therapy such as radiation treatments after a mastectomy without negatively affecting the reconstructed breast.
- Decision time: Women have more time to consider their options for breast reconstruction, which may be needed as they struggle to deal with the difficulties of being diagnosed with cancer.
- Allows time for preparation: Women with health conditions such as high blood pressure or obesity may not have sufficient time to prepare for immediate reconstruction. Delayed breast reconstruction allows women to prepare themselves and their bodies to undergo the procedure when they are ready.
- Multiple surgeries: Women must undergo multiple procedures, which increases the expense and overall recovery time.
- Difficult to perform: Intense scarring that can occur after a mastectomy may make it difficult to reconstruct a breast mound.
- Less optimal cosmetic results: The cosmetic results from delayed breast reconstruction are less optimal.
Many factors affect whether immediate or delayed breast reconstruction is best for you. These could include your cancer stage, cancer treatment, medical condition, health, lifestyle, and preference. Dr. Scroggins will analyze all of these factors with you to help you determine the best way to accomplish your breast reconstruction.
For assistance in planning your breast reconstruction procedure, please schedule your consultation with Dr. Carlton Scroggins. Dr. Scroggins will help you make the best decision for your needs, your body, and your lifestyle. To schedule your consultation with Dr. Scroggins, please call us at (301) 220-0400 or fill out our online contact form today.