A woman who has surgery to treat breast cancer might also choose to have surgery to rebuild the shape and look of her breast. This is called breast reconstruction surgery. If you are thinking about having this done, it is best to talk about it with your surgeon and a plastic surgeon experienced in breast reconstruction before you have surgery to remove the tumor or breast. This lets the surgical teams plan the best treatment for you, even if you decide to wait and have reconstructive surgery later.
A woman might choose to have breast reconstruction for many reasons:
Breast reconstruction often leaves scars, but they usually fade over time. Newer techniques have also reduced the amount of scarring. When you’re wearing a bra, your breasts should be alike enough in size and shape to let you feel comfortable about how you look in most types of clothes.
After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, breast reconstruction can make you feel better about how you look and renew your self-confidence. But keep in mind that the reconstructed breast will not be a perfect match or substitute for your natural breast. If tissue from your tummy, back, thigh, or buttocks was used as part of the reconstruction, those areas will also look different after surgery. Before you make your decision, talk with your surgeon about scars and changes in shape or contour. Ask where they will be, and how they will look and feel after they heal.
Of course, it's important to consider the potential risks and side effects of breast reconstruction surgery as well. These are discussed in What to Expect After Breast Reconstruction Surgery.
Studies show that reconstruction does not make breast cancer come back. If the cancer does come back, reconstructed breasts should not cause problems finding the cancer or treating it.
If you are thinking about having breast reconstruction, either with an implant or tissue flap (your own tissue), you need to know that reconstruction rarely hides a return of breast cancer. You should not consider this a big risk when deciding to have breast reconstruction.
It's important to know that there is advice and support out there to help you understand your reconstruction options as well as cope with the changes you’re going through if you have chosen reconstruction. Speaking with your doctor or other members of your health care team is often a good place to start. If you would like to talk with someone who has had your type of reconstruction, ask about our Reach To Recovery® program. Reach To Recovery volunteers are breast cancer survivors trained to support others facing breast cancer, as well as those who are thinking about having breast reconstruction. They can give you suggestions, reading material, and advice. Ask someone on your cancer care team to refer you to a volunteer or program in your area or call us at 1-800-227-2345.
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.
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Last Revised: September 19, 2022
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