Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

+ -Text Size

TOPICS

Reconstructing the nipple and areola

When treating breast cancer with a mastectomy, the nipple is typically removed along with the rest of the breast. (Some women might be able to have a nipple-sparing mastectomy, where the nipple is left in place.)

If you’re having breast construction after your mastectomy, you can decide if you want to have the nipple and the dark area around the nipple (areola) reconstructed.

Nipple and areola reconstruction

Nipple and areola reconstructions are usually the final phase of breast reconstruction. This is a separate surgery done to make the reconstructed breast look more like the original breast. It can be done as an outpatient procedure. It’s usually done after the new breast has had time to heal (about 3 to 4 months after surgery).

Ideally, nipple and areola reconstruction matches the position, size, shape, texture, color, and projection of the new nipple to the natural one (or to the other one, if both nipples are being reconstructed). Tissue used to rebuild the nipple and areola comes from the newly created breast or, less often, from another part of your body. In some cases, doctors build up the areola and nipple area with donor skin that’s had the cells removed. If a woman wants to match the color of the nipple and areola of the other breast, tattooing may be done a few months after the surgery.

Some women opt to have just the tattoo, without nipple and areola reconstruction. A skilled plastic surgeon or other professional may be able to use pigment in shades that make the flat tattoo look 3-dimensional.


Last Medical Review: 12/05/2014
Last Revised: 09/13/2016