Breast Reconstruction Options

Women who have had surgery to treat breast cancer can choose from several types of breast reconstruction. When deciding what type is best for you, you and your doctors should discuss factors including your health and your personal preferences. Take the time to learn what options are available to you and consider talking to others who have had that procedure before you make a decision.

Types of breast reconstruction procedures

Several types of reconstructive surgery are available, and sometimes the process means more than one operation. Give yourself plenty of time to make the best decision for you. You should make your decision about breast reconstruction only after you are fully informed.

For information about the procedures to reconstruct the shape of your breast or breasts see the following pages:

Sometimes the implant and flap procedures are used in combination to reconstruct a breast. In addition, nipple/areola tattooing and fat grafting can be done to help make the reconstructed breast look more like the original breast.

Reconstruction after lumpectomy or partial mastectomy

Most women who have breast conservation surgery (lumpectomy or partial mastectomy) do not need breast reconstruction. However, some women might end up having a breast deformity as a result of the cancer surgery; for example, dimpling caused by removing a large tumor from a small breast. Some doctors are addressing this problem by combining cancer surgery and plastic surgery techniques, known as oncoplastic surgery. This typically reshapes the breast at the time of the initial surgery, such as doing a partial breast reconstruction after breast-conserving surgery or a full reconstruction after mastectomy.

These women may be candidates for different types of breast reconstruction to reshape the breast including:

  • Smaller implants
  • Fat grafting
  • Breast reduction
  • Breast lift
  • Revision of scar
  • Smaller tissue flaps

One or more of these techniques may be used to get the best results. Also, this type of surgery has outcomes similar to lumpectomy or partial mastectomy without reconstruction.

Choosing which type of breast reconstruction to have

If you’ve decided to have breast reconstruction, you’ll still have many things to think about as you and your doctors talk about what type of reconstruction might be best for you. Some of the factors you and your doctors will need to think about when considering your options include:

  • Your overall health (including issues that might affect your healing, such as smoking or certain health conditions)
  • The size and location of your breast cancer
  • Your breast size
  • The extent of your breast cancer surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy)
  • Whether you will need treatments other than surgery for your cancer
  • The amount of tissue available (for example, very thin women may not have enough extra tummy tissue to use this area for breast reconstruction)
  • Whether you want reconstructive surgery on one or both breasts
  • Your desire to match the look of the other breast
  • Your insurance coverage and related costs for the unaffected breast
  • How quickly you want to be able to recover from surgery
  • Your willingness to have more than one surgery as part of the reconstruction
  • How different types of reconstructive surgery might affect other parts of your body

Your surgeon will review your medical history and overall health, and will explain which reconstructive options might be best for you based on your age, health, body type, lifestyle, goals, and other factors. Talk with your surgeon openly about your preferences. Be sure to voice any concerns and priorities you have for the reconstruction, and find a surgeon you feel comfortable with. Your surgeon should explain the limits, risks, and benefits of each option. 

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reconstruction. Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction on August 7, 2019.

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National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Breast Cancer. Version 2.2019. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf on July 28, 2019.

Patel K, Bloom J, Nardello S, Cohen S, Reiland J, Chatterjee A.An Oncoplastic Surgery Primer: Common Indications, Techniques, and Complications in Level 1 and 2 Volume Displacement Oncoplastic Surgery. Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Jul 24. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07592-5. [Epub ahead of print]

Last Medical Review: September 18, 2019 Last Revised: September 18, 2019

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