Preoperative considerations

A consultation with a plastic surgeon is the first step a woman should take if considering breast reconstruction. You may choose to have a consultation before your mastectomy to learn about the various reconstruction possibilities available to you. The plastic surgeon and your general surgeon often work closely together on those aspects of your mastectomy that influence reconstruction.

Post mastectomy breast reconstruction

If you are facing the loss of a breast due to cancer or other disease, you may now have the option of a breast reconstruction. Mr E. Peter Walker performs post mastectomy breast reconstruction, which is a surgical procedure to recreate the natural contour of your breast, using either a prosthesis or your own tissues after breast cancer. Many women who have undergone breast reconstruction experience a faster and more complete emotional recovery from the loss of their breast.

Great strides have been made in the field of breast reconstruction in recent years, resulting in more natural breast shape and appearance. It is important, though, to realise that your reconstructed breast will not look or feel exactly like your natural breast.

The following information will introduce you to the most common breast reconstruction procedures used today, and will summarise some of the differences between them. Also included is a list of questions and a resource guide designed to help you to find more information for your breast reconstruction decision.

The timing of your breast reconstruction

The breast reconstruction process may begin at the time of your mastectomy (immediate) or weeks to years afterwards (delayed).

Immediate reconstruction means that the procedure is done at the same operation as the mastectomy, i.e. under the one anaesthetic. It is important to know that any type of surgical breast reconstruction may take several steps to complete.

Two potential advantages to immediate reconstruction are that your reconstruction process is already underway when you wake up from the mastectomy, and there may be costs saved in combining the mastectomy procedure with the first stage of the reconstruction. However, there may be a higher risk of complications with immediate reconstruction and your initial operative time and recuperative time may be longer.

A potential advantage to delayed reconstruction is that you can delay your reconstruction decision and surgery until other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy are completed. Delayed reconstruction may be advisable if your surgeon anticipates healing problems with your mastectomy, or if you just need more time to consider your options. If you have Southern Cross Healthcare cover they advise beginning reconstruction within two years of your mastectomy.

There are medical, financial and emotional considerations to choosing immediate versus delayed reconstruction. Talk with your plastic surgeon about the options available in your particular case.