Austin Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is performed to restore the breast after a surgical procedure for breast cancer treatment. Surgery for breast cancer can either involve a mastectomy (removal of all breast tissue) or a lumpectomy (removal of small portion of breast tissue). Furthermore, additional therapies such as radiation, chemotherapy, lymph node sampling and removal, and hormonal therapies may be indicated before and/or after surgical treatment. These treatments will be discussed and planned with you by a multidisciplinary team as part of your cancer care.
Depending on the details of the cancer type and treatment, the timing of breast reconstruction can either be immediate or delayed.
What is immediate breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is immediate if it is initiated at the time of mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. The plastic surgeon usually coordinates schedules with a general surgeon for immediate breast reconstruction. Each surgeon performs his/her part of the procedure in sequence.
What is delayed breast reconstruction?
There are certain situations in which it is not advisable to start reconstruction on the same day as the breast cancer surgery. In these cases, the reconstruction is delayed until completion of breast cancer treatment. Women who are not candidates for reconstruction at the time of mastectomy may be candidates for delayed breast reconstruction.
What techniques are available?
Breast reconstruction can be successfully performed with the use of high-quality breast implants. For many women the chest tissues need to be stretched with a balloon-like device called a tissue expander for several weeks before an implant can be safely placed. Some patients are candidates for a ‘direct-to-implant’ procedure in which the tissue expander phase is omitted and a full-size implant is placed at the time of mastectomy. This single-stage approach is gaining popularity in the United States. Silicone breast implants are more commonly used, although it is possible to use adjustable saline implants. Either way, implant reconstruction is by far the most commonly performed type of reconstruction in the United States today.
Autologous (using the patient’s own tissues) reconstruction
Breast reconstruction using the patient’s own tissues is a good option for some select patients. Patients who have undergone radiation therapy usually need to have autologous reconstruction to increase the chance of a successful outcome. Tissue can be harvested from the abdomen, back, inner thighs, or buttocks, then transferred to the chest and reshaped to create a natural-looking breast shape. It may be necessary to use complex microsurgical techniques to connect small blood vessels in order to keep the transferred tissues alive.
Recreating the Nipple and Areola
Assuming the nipple and areola are removed during the mastectomy, a patient can opt to have her nipple and areola reconstructed. This is typically offered after the breast shape has been completed. Medical tattooing is a method often used to create realistic-appearing nipples and areolae. It is also possible to use surgical techniques such as local tissue rearrangement and skin grafts to create a new nipple and areola.
In some cases it may be beneficial to offer a balancing procedure on the other breast to achieve better symmetry and balance. This procedure can be a breast augmentation, breast reduction, or breast lift. This is considered part of the reconstruction and is usually covered by insurance along with the other reconstructive procedures.
How long does breast reconstruction take?
Breast reconstruction can be a relatively prolonged process, often taking between 1 and 2 years to fully complete. Since so many variables exist, each patient’s recommendations will be determined during a consultation with her plastic surgeon.
Is breast reconstruction covered by insurance?
Medical insurance providers are required by law to cover mastectomy or lumpectomy procedures along with the patient’s chosen breast reconstruction option. Additionally if a breast balancing procedures are also covered if they are recommended by the surgeon.
The total cost of the procedure will depend on the specifics of your current insurance plan. Please contact us today to learn discuss insurance coverage and costs.
Breast Reconstruction at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery
At Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery all breast reconstruction procedures are done by Dr. Chuma Chike-Obi, a board certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience in all areas of plastic surgery, including reconstructive and cosmetic procedures. Dr. Chike-Obi practices at our Westlake Dermatology Downtown Austin location while also having privileges at several major hospitals in the Austin area.