Following a breast cancer diagnosis and course of treatment, it’s common to want to move forward with a sense of wholeness and closure. Breast reconstruction using breast implants, fat transfer, flap reconstruction or a combination can provide the final step in your breast cancer journey.
Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Harrington is nationally acclaimed for her expertise in reconstructive surgery, particularly of the breasts. She has helped countless women overcoming breast cancer feel complete and healthy again with customized breast reconstruction surgery.
At Harrington Plastic Surgery, we’ve helped women from the Twin Cities area and throughout Minnesota feel body-positive after having a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Contact us online or call our Plymouth office today at 651-290-7600 for more information about breast reconstruction, including pricing and coverage.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Most women who have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy for one or both breasts and are in remission can be good candidates for reconstructive breast surgery. Breast reconstruction surgery may also be appropriate for women who have sustained injury to the breasts. The most common candidates for breast reconstruction include:
- Women who have had or are going to have a single or double mastectomy to remove one or more cancerous tumors
- Women who have had a lumpectomy on one or both breasts and plan to undergo chemotherapy
- Women who have had a traumatic injury to one or both breasts
Breast Reconstruction Insurance Coverage
In the United States, all health insurance providers that provide coverage for breast cancer treatment are also required to cover the costs associated with reconstructive breast surgery following a cancer diagnosis, including the breast reconstruction surgery itself and any pre- and post-operative appointments. However, women seeking reconstruction are encouraged to communicate with their insurance provider about specifics, such as coverage for a reconstruction revision, travel costs or coverage for additional procedures to create a more balanced appearance. Dr. Harrington and her staff can work with you to determine the best approach for your needs that meets your insurance provider’s criteria.
Your Reconstructive Breast Surgery
Depending on the approach you and Dr. Harrington decide upon, your breast reconstruction may be a same-day procedure or a staged process. You may choose to have your breast(s) reconstructed on the same day as your mastectomy, shortly after, or several years down the line. Breast reconstruction surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia, but depending on your procedure, some stages may be performed using sedation or a local anesthetic.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery with Implants
Reconstruction with saline or silicone breast implants is one method of rebuilding the breasts after a mastectomy. Implant reconstruction is usually a staged procedure. Immediately following your mastectomy, Dr. Harrington will insert a balloon-like tissue expander into the breast pocket to gradually make room for the implant. She will also place an ADM for the implant to rest more comfortably in the pocket. The expansion process may take up to several months. Dr. Harrington will then insert the best implant for your body and desired look. Some women benefit from a breast lift or breast reduction on the opposite breast to create better symmetry.
Also known as autologous reconstruction, flap reconstruction uses tissue from other areas of the body, such as the belly, back or buttocks to create a new breast. The best donor site varies for each woman and depends on factors such as breast size and the amount of excess tissue in potential donor sites. Some women prefer flap reconstruction, as the reconstructed breast can be made entirely of their own natural tissue. In some cases, however, a combination of flap and implant reconstruction may provide the best results. Flap reconstruction can be performed at the same time as a mastectomy, some time after a mastectomy or as a staged procedure.
Nipple and Areola Reconstruction
For women whose mastectomy removed all or part of the nipple areolar complex, reconstruction of the nipple and/or areola can be performed. Tissue from another part of the body or tissue from the mastectomy site can be transplanted to the newly reconstructed breast to create a nipple mound. Many women also benefit from nipple areola tattooing to complete the appearance of a natural, intact nipple.
Fat Transfer Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction surgery can also be performed using fat grafting, also known as fat transfer. During a fat transfer procedure, fat cells are removed from another area of the body using liposuction before being processed and injected into the reconstructed breast. While for many mastectomy patients, fat transfer alone will not produce the desired results, the technique can be combined with implant reconstruction or flap-based reconstruction to create softer, rounder contours and a more natural feel.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery Recovery
Because reconstructive breast surgery is a highly customized procedure, the recovery process will be different for everyone. Some women choose immediate reconstruction so that they can recover from their mastectomy and reconstruction surgery all at once. Others may prefer to recover from a mastectomy fully before considering further breast surgery for reconstruction.
Most women take at least 1 to 4 weeks away from work and other normal activities after getting reconstructive breast surgery. Dr. Harrington may ask you to wear a special post-surgical bra to assist with the healing process. Women who have fat transfer or flap reconstruction will also need to care for the donor site during their recovery process, which may include using ice packs or an additional compression garment. Depending on your individual procedure, your final results may take up to 6 -12 months to fully develop.
It’s important to discuss possible risks and complications with Dr. Harrington prior to having breast reconstruction. If you notice any sudden pain or swelling, notify our office immediately.
Reconstructive breast surgery can improve the self-image and quality of life of women who have overcome illness or injury. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact us online or call our Plymouth office at 651-290-7600 to schedule your breast reconstruction consultation and learn more about how to embrace your natural appearance.