Is Re-Constructive Surgery for You?

Know your options before you get a mastectomy.

Marcia Frellick

HealthKey.com contributor

October 28, 2009


Many women with breast cancer who have a mastectomy choose reconstructive surgery to restore the breast's appearance.

If you choose this option, it is a good idea to talk with your surgeon and plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, says the American Cancer Society. This lets the surgical teams make the best treatment plan for you, even if you decide to wait on reconstruction. Reconstruction can happen in several ways but generally you either get an implant, a skin flap taken from your own body tissue or a combination of the two, according to mayoclinic.com.

Here are 10 things to think about before you decide on reconstruction:

1. Will this help my self-esteem and body image?

2. Can I cope with this at the same time I'm dealing with cancer? Reconstructive surgery can take one or more operations, according to the National Institutes of Health.

3. How important is it to match the look of the other breast?

4. What will my insurance cover?

5. Would I want it done at the same time as my mastectomy?

6. What if I didn't like the look?

7. Reconstruction doesn't restore normal sensation. Does that affect my decision?

8. Would I want reconstruction on one breast or both?

9. Would I be satisfied with a prosthesis in my bra?

10. How much time would it take me to recover?

Other important factors to think about:

You can have either immediate reconstruction at the time of the mastectomy or delayed reconstruction. There are pros and cons to both.

If you have bleeding or scarring tendencies, you should factor this in your decision.

Your ability to heal may be affected by previous surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, alcohol use, diabetes and other factors.

Surgeons may suggest you wait, especially if you smoke or have other health problems. Many surgeons require you to quit smoking at least two months before reconstructive surgery to facilitate healing, according to the American Cancer Institute. If you are obese, too thin or have circulation problems, you may not be qualified for reconstructive surgery.