Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy

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Choosing your plastic surgeon for 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 a caller’s area who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. You can find contact information in the “To learn more” section near the end of this document.

Questions to ask your plastic surgeon

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. Here’s a list of questions to get you started. Write down other questions as you think of them.

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. The answers to these questions may help you make your decisions.

  • Can I have breast reconstruction?
  • When can I have reconstruction done?
  • What types of reconstruction could I have?
  • What’s the average cost of each type? Will my insurance cover them?
  • What type of reconstruction do you think would be best for me? Why?
  • How many of these procedures have you (plastic surgeon) done?
  • What results can I expect?
  • Will the reconstructed breast match my other breast?
  • How will my reconstructed breast feel to the touch?
  • Will I have any feeling in my reconstructed breast?
  • 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)?
  • How much discomfort or pain will I feel?
  • 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 wounds)?
  • 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? (This is called lymphedema.)
  • When will I be able to go back to normal activities such as driving and working?
  • Can I talk with other women who have had the same surgery?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with chemotherapy?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with radiation therapy?
  • How long will the implant 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?

It’s common to get a second opinion before having surgery. Breast reconstruction and even mastectomy are not emergencies. It’s more important for you to make the right decisions based on complete information than to act quickly before you know all your options.

Last Medical Review: 12/05/2014
Last Revised: 10/20/2015