Physicians don’t all agree when it comes to deciding on the perfect time to begin breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. Some physicians recommend immediate breast reconstruction, which is performed at the same time as the mastectomy. Or, they may recommend a delayed breast reconstruction that is performed maybe weeks or months later, if radiation is needed. Reconstruction can even take place years after the mastectomy.
Most physicians base their views on previous experiences. Some may have better results and less complications waiting until after radiation.On the other hand, new innovative medical information may have them re-evaluate the conventional thought, or they may take deeper consideration into the current emotional ability of the woman to make a decision.
Why Delay Breast Reconstruction?
A diagnosis of breast cancer can overwhelm a woman with more information than she can handle. A woman beginning the long journey as a breast cancer patient must make decision after decision.The stress of the situation, the enormity of what’s to come, even her uncertainty of the future makes every decision that much harder. It takes a toll, mentally, as well as physically. Delaying the decision about breast reconstruction allows more time to consider all the alternatives.
Immediate Breast Reconstruction?
One of the benefits of immediate breast reconstruction is to avoid some of the other surgeries that are waiting down the line. Breast reconstruction can be easier immediately because the tissue is less damaged by scarring. The breast skin will also be able to retain the size and the shape of the original breast, and perhaps the most important reason for some women, at least psychologically, not waking from a mastectomy with the absence of a breast. Additionally, it can also impact the breast surgeon’s technique. For example, in immediate breast reconstruction, the breast surgeon may be able to perform a skin-sparing or nipple-sparing mastectomy. This procedure causes less scarring than a traditional mastectomy, and by using the woman’s own natural skin and/or nipple, the results may look far more like her original breasts.
Thankfully, new modern radiation equipment and technique has alleviated some of the concerns of complications that radiation therapy contributed to in the past, making immediate breast reconstruction a valid option for most women. Beginning the reconstruction process during the initial mastectomy can avoid a long and emotional delay.
The Best Choice is….
There isn’t a right answer to what the perfect timing for breast reconstruction is. It’s definitely complicated, and more importantly, it’s a very personal choice. So be sure to take into account your well-being, your lifestyle, and your team of physicians. If you need time to grieve your former breasts or are simply not ready for more surgery, delayed breast reconstruction might be the better option. On the other hand, some of the best and most cutting-edge surgeries are only available to women who choose immediate breast reconstruction. Then it is up to you to make the best choice for the fight ahead and the ultimate goal of resuming a life that resembles the one you had before cancer.