Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

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Choosing a breast reconstruction surgeon and questions to ask

If you’ve had surgery to treat your breast cancer and are considering breast reconstruction, it’s important to be fully informed about what to expect. Your breast surgeon can help you find a plastic surgeon who should be able to explain all your options and answer your questions. Here you’ll find some questions to ask to help get you started. Be sure you get all of your questions answered, so that you can make the best decisions for you about your breast reconstruction.

Finding the right plastic surgeon for your breast reconstruction

Once you decide to have breast reconstruction, you’ll need to find an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon. Your breast surgeon can suggest doctors for you.

To find out if a plastic surgeon is board certified, contact the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). This organization has a Plastic Surgery Information Service that provides a list of ASPS members in your area who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Visit their website at www.plasticsurgery.org.

Getting a second opinion

It’s common to get a second opinion before having surgery. Don’t rush to get reconstruction surgery, or even mastectomy, before you know all of your options. It’s more important for you to make the right decisions based on complete information than to act quickly.

Questions to ask about breast reconstruction

It’s very important to get all of your questions answered by your plastic surgeon before having breast reconstruction. If you don’t understand something, ask your surgeon about it. You might want to take notes or record your talks with your surgeons. Some people bring their partner or a friend with them to the doctor to help remember what was said and to help ask other questions.

Here are questions to get you started. Write down other questions as you think of them. The answers to these questions may help you make your decisions.

When deciding if breast reconstruction is right for you:

  • Can I have breast reconstruction?
  • When can I have reconstruction done?
  • What are the pros and cons of doing it at the same time as my cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction) versus waiting (delayed reconstruction)?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with chemotherapy?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with radiation therapy?
  • What types of reconstruction could I have?
  • What are the pros and cons with each option?
  • What type of reconstruction do you think would be best for me? Why?
  • What’s the average cost of each type? Will my insurance cover them?
  • How long would it take me to recover from each type?
  • How many of these procedures have you (plastic surgeon) done?
  • What results can I expect?
  • Will the reconstructed breast match my other breast?
  • Should I consider surgery on the other breast as well to help them match?
  • Could I have the nipple reconstructed if I choose to? What would this involve?
  • How will my reconstructed breast(s) feel to the touch?
  • Will I have any feeling in my reconstructed breast(s)?
  • What possible problems should I know about?
  • Will there be pain, scars, or other changes in the parts of my body the tissue is taken from (if using a tissue flap)?
  • If I get a breast implant, how long is it likely to last?
  • What kinds of changes to the breast can I expect over time?
  • How will aging affect the reconstructed breast?
  • What happens if I gain or lose weight?
  • Are there any new reconstruction options that I should know about, including clinical trials?
  • Can you show me pictures of typical results?
  • Can I talk with other women who have had the same surgery?

When preparing for surgery

  • What should I do to get ready for surgery?
  • How much discomfort or pain will I feel after surgery?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Will I need blood transfusions?
  • How long will it take me to recover?
  • What will I need to do at home to care for my incisions (surgical scars)?
  • Will I have a drain (tube that lets fluid out of the wound) when I go home?
  • How much help will I need at home to take care of my drain and wound?
  • Will I be taught exercises to do after surgery? When can I start them?
  • How much activity can I do at home?
  • What do I do if my arm swells?
  • When will I be able to go back to normal activities such as driving and working?

Last Medical Review: 12/05/2014
Last Revised: 04/25/2016