Reconstruction After Breast Cancer: Yes or No? Who to Consult
28 May 2016
As we’ve said before, breast reconstruction is a personal choice. You never have to get reconstruction after breast cancer. If you change your mind later, you can always get it years after your mastectomy or lumpectomy.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t discuss your options with others.
Whether you’ve done research or not, you may feel a need to discuss your potential reconstruction with others. This is completely normal. There is no reason to struggle through it on your own. There are plenty of people you can talk to. We’ve provided some ideas for you here.
You may not want to talk to any of them, or you may want to talk to all of them. Either way, we hope this will help you during the decision-making process.
First off, if you’re thinking about getting breast reconstruction you’ll need to talk to your physician. You’ll also need to talk to a surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction. Your physician will provide you with information about your options and how the procedure may affect you, individually.
Your surgeon can provide more details about what procedures are available and what life will be like after surgery. Make sure you discuss the possible risks of breast reconstruction and the different reconstruction timing options available. Don’t forget to ask whether you are a good candidate for reconstruction. It may also be helpful for you to ask about what the reconstructed breast will look or feel like.
If you decide to get reconstruction, your surgeon will provide you with any information you may need regarding recovery times and hospital stays. Your surgeon can also provide information about wound care, activity levels, and virtually anything else that comes to mind.
Take the time to talk with your other cancer physicians and nurses too. This will give you a more rounded out idea of what breast reconstruction will be like. They may have witnessed some of the benefits and drawbacks of the breast reconstruction of other patients.
You can read about women we’ve interviewed on our Reconstruction Stories page. Some of our stories describe women’s discussions with medical professionals about their options. Frannie’s story reveals the importance of asking the right questions. It also emphasizes the wisdom of getting a second opinion.
Counselors and Psychologists
Counselors and psychologists may seem better suited for helping you cope with breast cancer treatment. However, they can also be a great help when it comes to deciding on reconstruction after breast cancer. They won’t be likely to provide you with concrete information about the procedures, but can help with the emotional aspect.
Counselors and psychologists can provide you with support during this time. It’s possible that they or a colleague may have experience in helping women in your situation. Make sure to ask.
When it comes to breast reconstruction, you may be worried that you won’t be able to accept the new breast as your own. If you’re leaning more toward not getting reconstruction, you may worry about dealing with their breast(s) being gone. Discuss these concerns with a counselor or psychologist. It can help alleviate worries or negative emotions that may arise after a decision has been made.
Check out our article, Feeling Overwhelmed: Counselors and Psychologists. It can provide you with some additional information about the benefits of seeking counseling, and signs that it may be time to get help.
Other Women Who Considered Reconstruction After Breast Cancer
Talk to other women who have opted both for or against reconstruction after breast cancer. This is very beneficial. Many women are already overwhelmed before breast reconstruction even comes up as an option. Talking to other women who’ve been in your shoes can provide you with an immense amount of support.
Indeed, this is the best way to find out about what reconstruction after breast cancer is like. You will have the chance to hear about what women experienced after lumpectomy and mastectomy. You’ll learn about their experiences with different reconstruction techniques. You may also be able to see pictures of the outcomes.
Many breast cancer websites maintain forums about reconstruction after breast cancer. Breastcancer.org has both a Living Without Reconstruction After a Mastectomy forum and Breast Reconstruction forum, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers a webinar featuring a panel of women discussing their reconstruction decision-making experiences. We are building a reconstruction gallery for women to see other real-life examples of different breast reconstruction options.
For more in-person interactions, ask your cancer-care physicians about local support groups for women with breast cancer. You may find one that is specific to reconstruction. If you cannot find one that suits you, consider creating your own.
We have a full article about the different types of support groups that are commonly available. Look through it to find a better idea of what sort of setting appeals to you.
Friends and Family
Finally, you may want to talk to your friends, family, and other loved ones about your choice regarding reconstruction after breast cancer. Hopefully, you’ve already shared some of your concerns about breast cancer and treatment with your friends and/or family. You know they will be there to support you. Talking to a friendly ear is therapeutic. Simply speaking your questions or concerns aloud may help you discover answers you already knew.
You won’t be the only one with concerns regarding reconstruction after breast cancer. Sharing mutual concerns with loved ones can help you feel more connected and less alone. Some women are especially worried about how their significant other may react following either reconstruction or a mastectomy without reconstruction. Instead of ignoring it, try talking to them about your own feelings. Often times, this will ease both of your worries and you will feel better going into your final decision.