Breast Reconstruction NZ

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” C. S. Lewis

Breast reconstruction surgery is the creation of a new breast shape following mastectomy which allows women the chance to rebuild their bodies after the trauma of cancer surgery and for some to regain a sense of their femininity.

If breast reconstruction is an option, women may choose this as a part of their treatment for breast cancer and opt for immediate reconstruction. For others, the decision is delayed until some time after mastectomy. One of the great difficulties is being able to fathom the choices that are available to you whilst trying to come to terms with the diagnosis of breast cancer.

While some women may choose not to undergo breast reconstruction, it is vital that it is offered and discussed with all and that those who wish to do so, can avail of it.

Breast reconstruction SURGERY – FACTS

Length of surgery 3-8 hours
Anaesthesia General anaesthetic
Hospital stay 3-6 nights (depending on the type of reconstruction)
Risks/complications of surgery

Frequent: Bleeding, infection, swelling, pain

Infrequent: flap failure, fat necrosis, implant complications, delayed wound healing, asymmetry, poor scarring, bulges/hernia

Recovery (depends on type of reconstruction)

2-3 weeks until socialising with close friends and family
2 weeks abdominal binder for DIEP
4-8 weeks until return to work and normal social engagements
6-8 weeks until swelling and bruising disappears
4-8 weeks travel abroad
6-12 weeks until return to gym and other strenuous activities
3-9 months until final result

Driving 2-6 weeks
Sleeping position Sleep on your back
Follow up 1 week, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months
Duration of results Long-lasting (depending on type of reconstruction)

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Breast Reconstruction

Any plastic surgery procedure is a very personal choice and understandably there are a number of questions that arise. This information sheet is a general guide for patients considering breast reconstruction under the care of Dr Mackenzie. It should provide the answers to some questions that you may have.

Breast reconstruction introduction

Mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. The long-term prospects of living without a breast or part of one affects every woman differently. The choice for one woman won’t necessarily be right for another. It’s a very personal decision, and it’s often not easy to make.

Breast cancer treatment is a complex and often a multi-staged process, in which plastic surgery has a vital role to facilitate optimal reconstructive outcomes.

You can have reconstruction at the same time as breast cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction) or months or years later (delayed reconstruction). Breast reconstruction often involves several operations to give you the best outcome possible.

There are different options available for breast reconstruction, some are relatively simple and some are quite complicated. The option chosen depends on the size and shape of the breast to be reconstructed, if it is one breast or both, if radiotherapy is or was needed, the availability of tissue in other parts of the body eg abdomen, inner thigh, buttock or back and of course, what option the woman would prefer. The first basic choice is between autologous reconstruction (using the patient’s own tissue to reconstruct the breast) or implant-based reconstruction or a combination of both.

It is essential that you are assessed and informed of the technique that would be suitable for you by someone who knows about all the options available. Discussing your cancer surgery with a plastic surgeon before undergoing mastectomy is crucial, because the proposed cancer removal surgery may significantly affect the choices and the results of any type of breast reconstruction.

What is the goal of breast reconstruction?

The goal of breast reconstruction is to restore one or both breasts to near normal shape, appearance, symmetry and size following mastectomy, lumpectomy or congenital deformities.

However, even with the best outcome, there will be differences between the remaining breast and the reconstructed one, and sometimes surgery on the other side can help. This can be done at the same time as the reconstruction, but waiting for the reconstruction to heal and settle into position is usually recommended.

Importantly, breast reconstruction also aims to help with your body image and self-esteem at a difficult time, aiding the process of recovery on a physical, emotional and psychological level.