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What is Breast Reconstruction Surgery

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Updated February 12, 2011

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Breast Reconstruction Surgery After Mastectomy
before breast reconstruction surgery

Before Reconstructive Surgery

Photo © A.D.A.M.

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Breast reconstruction surgery, a procedure to restore the natural appearance of the breast, is frequently performed after partial and total mastectomy procedures for breast cancer. Patients who have a lumpectomy procedure frequently do not require reconstruction, as the amount of tissue removed is far smaller. Some patients have no desire to have surgery to reconstruct the breast after it is removed, but the majority opt to have the breast cosmetically reconstructed.

In most states reconstruction after a mastectomy for breast cancer is covered by insurance, as reconstruction is considered part of the mastectomy process. Patients considering a prophylactic, or preventative, mastectomy may want to confirm that insurance covers both the initial mastectomy and the reconstruction.

For women who choose not to have reconstruction, there are bras available with prosthetic inserts that provide balance with the remaining breast.

Once the decision is made to have a mastectomy, a choice regarding reconstruction should be made prior to surgery. The decision should be made after consulting with a board certified plastic surgeon with experience in breast reconstruction procedures. This is because the reconstruction can be “immediate” and completed during the same surgery as the mastectomy, or “delayed” and performed at a later date.

Breast reconstruction is an inpatient procedure and is performed using general anesthesia. Patients remain in the hospital for at least one day after surgery.

For women with large breasts or breasts that will look notably different in size or shape than a reconstructed breast, a breast reduction may be necessary to provide symmetry. Another option is an implant procedure or breast lift on the remaining breast.

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