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Breast Reconstruction - Factors That Influence Its Timing!

Written and reviewed by
MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, MS - General Surgery
Oncologist, Pune  •  37 years experience
Breast Reconstruction - Factors That Influence Its Timing!

Breast Reconstruction refers to a surgical procedure used for restoring a woman’s breast to a normal shape and size, either after mastectomy, which involves removal of entire breast or after lumpectomy, when a part of the breast is removed. The reconstruction is done by using a patient’s own tissue or by using implants.

Breast Reconstruction is considered to be an integral part of the healing and recovery process but it’s not an ideal option for everyone. The most important thing is that the reconstructive efforts should not cause interference or complicate breast cancer treatment.

When is breast reconstruction done?
Breast Reconstruction can be done at different times, mainly depending on what would ideally work for a particular situation of a candidate affected by cancer. It is generally conducted at the same time as mastectomy surgery, which involves removal of entire breast. This is known as immediate reconstruction. Right after the removal of breast by the breast cancer surgeon, reconstruction is conducted by the plastic surgeon, either with tissue from any other location on a woman’s body or with an implant. Only one surgery is required to get all these things done.

Immediate reconstruction is not always possible if additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy is required. Under those circumstances, a surgeon would recommend that one should wait till all these treatments are finished before going ahead with the reconstruction. A patient might also get recommendation, wherein a surgeon might opt to conduct partial reconstruction and conduct the other part after chemotherapy.

Factors influencing the timing of reconstruction

  • Stage of Cancer: Stage I or stage II breast cancer patients who choose mastectomy, where they prefer removal of entire breast, are less likely to require radiation or any other treatment. These candidates are ideal for immediate reconstruction. In case of stage III or stage IV patients, for whom radiation therapy is mandatory due to the size of the cancer, doctors might recommend to delay reconstruction till all other cancer treatments are completed.
  • Facilities or availability of experts in a particular area: Women might look to delay reconstruction till they find surgeons with expertise in this field. Otherwise it’s a risky proposition.
  • Time for making a decision: The time a woman takes in order to take a decision regarding mastectomy or lumpectomy is a major factor which influences, when exactly the reconstruction surgery would be conducted. Thinking long-term is always desirable than to opt for something which would only give you relief for a short duration.
  • Overall health: If a woman has diabetes, circulatory problems or any other disorder, the doctor might want her to recover completely from entire breast removal process, before going for reconstruction.

Risks associated with breast reconstruction
Breast Reconstruction Risks are mainly dependent on existing medical problems of patients. Patients would be at high risk for complications if they have diabetes, excess body weight and high blood pressure. Women who have had lumpectomy and radiation therapy done to their chests, are also prone to high risk for complications. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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