When To Get Implants After A Mastectomy? Immediate vs Scheduled Breast Reconstruction


When To Get Implants After A Mastectomy? Immediate vs Scheduled Breast Reconstruction

What Comes After A Mastectomy?

Breast cancer can be a daunting diagnosis to face. Understandably, many women are concerned upon discovery. While some women need a mastectomy to prevent cancer from spreading, other individuals opt for the procedure as a preventative measure. During the surgery, the breast tissue is often completely removed, yet the skin flaps are left in case a woman wants to get implants. Although not all women undergo breast reconstruction, the option is popular and often chosen for personal reasons like maintaining body image.

Timing breast reconstruction

In many cases, a patient having a mastectomy can choose to also have immediate reconstruction performed after the affected breast tissue is removed. Essentially, as soon as the cancerous breast tissue is removed, plastic surgeons insert breast implants or use fat transfer from tissue in another part of the woman’s body. While immediate reconstruction following a mastectomy is incredibly common, not all women are good candidates.

The need to wait

Immediately receiving implants can be convenient and minimize repeat surgeries. However, depending on a patient’s diagnosis and cancer progression, some people might have to wait. In certain scenarios, waiting is safer. For example, women that need to continue cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation should wait. Breast reconstruction is often delayed until treatments are completed. Physicians have good reasons to urge patients to wait if more treatments are needed. Specifically, radiation therapy can change the texture, color, and appearance of the breasts. Additionally, breast volume can be lost during the process.

Avoiding further spread

If breast cancer is more advanced, waiting is prudent. In some cases, cancerous cells can spread to other parts of the body, like the lymph nodes. When such a situation occurs, additional treatments might be necessary. Likewise, breast implants can occasionally interfere with treatment and reduce effectiveness. Often, a woman may need to wait 6-12 months after the mastectomy before attempting to get breast implants.

Reconstruction workarounds

Just because a woman has to delay breast reconstruction doesn’t mean that steps can’t be taken to preserve the shape of the breast until the final implants can be inserted. Delayed-immediate reconstruction is a popular technique that relies on a placeholder implant called a spacer. The spacer works to preserve the breast’s shape until implants can be placed. The spacer is meant to be left from a few weeks to several months until the patient has completed treatment and is ready for surgery.

Knowing what to expect

Breast cancer is a serious diagnosis, and getting the condition under control and eradicated should be the priority. Yet, appearances matter, and many women want to like what is displayed in the mirror after a mastectomy. While some people can elect to have immediate reconstruction, other individuals will need to wait until any necessary post-surgical cancer treatments are complete. Before deciding, breast cancer patients should speak with an oncologist and a board-certified plastic surgeon experienced in breast reconstruction.

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