Learn about breast reconstruction surgeries after breast cancer

By Jill Murphy, MD, plastic surgeon at UPMC Altoona Plastic Surgery

Women facing a breast cancer diagnosis or those who have already been treated for the disease have options when it comes to breast reconstruction.

A number of surgical breast procedures are available, but finding the right one can be a daunting task. Below is a brief overview of some of the most common types of breast reconstruction surgery.

To learn more about this topic, or to schedule an appointment, contact UPMC Altoona Plastic Surgery or call (814) 947-5030.

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Oncoplastic breast reconstruction

  • Oncoplastic breast reconstruction involves rearranging breast tissue after the breast cancer has been removed.
  • Women who are good candidates for oncoplastic breast reconstruction have large breasts and small tumors.
  • Rather than choosing a mastectomy to remove all breast tissue, they choose a lumpectomy, which involves removing the tumor and some surrounding normal breast tissue. Women who choose lumpectomy will also need radiation therapy.
  • Rearrangement of the tissue frequently involves doing a breast reduction or breast lift after the tumor has been removed. The healthy breast is often reduced or lifted as well so that the two sides match.

RELATED: Coping with Emotions After Mastectomy

Breast reconstruction with implants

  • Breast reconstruction with implants is done after a mastectomy. Most often it involves two surgeries.
  • One procedure is done at the same time as the mastectomy. A tissue expander, which can be thought of as a medical balloon, is placed beneath the mastectomy skin.
  • Over the course of three months or less, the expander is inflated by inserting a small needle into the port on the expander.
  • Once a woman breast size is what she wants to be, surgery is scheduled to remove the tissue expander and replace it with a long-term breast implant (most often silicone). The new breast size chosen may be bigger or smaller than the woman’s original breast size.
  • In some circumstances, the long-term implant rather than a tissue expander may be placed at the time of the mastectomy. This makes a second surgery to remove the tissue expander unnecessary.
  • For women who have small- to medium-sized breasts who don’t want to be larger, this may be an option.

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Autologous breast reconstruction

  • Autologous breast reconstruction involves harvesting fat and skin from another part of the body — most commonly the abdomen — and using it to reconstruct the breast(s) after mastectomy..
  • The skin, which is normally discarded during a tummy tuck, can be used to reconstruct the breast(s). Other possible donor sites include the middle thighs, the buttocks, the back, and various other areas. This type of surgery usually involves a longer hospital stay than implant or oncoplastic reconstruction.
  • It is a good option for women who will need radiation therapy or don’t want an implant in their body.

Finding the Option That’s Best for You

Breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as a mastectomy/lumpectomy or it can be done months or even years later.

When breast reconstruction occurs at a different time than the mastectomy/lumpectomy, it is called delayed reconstruction. Insurance pays for both types of breast reconstruction, plenty of evidence shows that women who undergo breast reconstruction have a better quality of life after breast cancer treatment than women who do not.

Dr. Jill Murphy

Dr. Jill Murphy

If you or a loved one are faced with breast cancer and are deciding on treatment options, or have already been treated for breast cancer, remember that breast reconstruction is an important part of breast cancer treatment.

To learn more about this topic, or to schedule an appointment, contact us at UPMC Altoona Plastic Surgery or call (814) 947-5030.

RELATED: Coping with Breast Cancer Under 40

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.

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