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Yes. There are two main categories of breast reconstruction – autologous reconstruction and implant reconstruction. Autologous breast reconstruction uses tissue and fat from another area of your body to reconstruct your breasts. Women who feel uncomfortable with the thought of a foreign body (implants) in their chest area may want to consider autologous breast reconstruction.

Breast reconstruction is broadly divided into two categories: implant and autologous reconstruction. Implant reconstruction can be done using saline, silicone, or “gummy bear” implants. Saline implants feature a silicone capsule containing saline water while silicone implants are made entirely of silicone. Finally, gummy bear implants are made from a gel that resembles the feel of a gummy bear.

In terms of autologous reconstruction, you can choose between either a free or pedicle flap. Pedicle flap procedures are more common. They involve moving the tissue from the donor site to the chest. This is all done under the skin, so there is no need to reattach blood vessels. Free flap procedures involve removing the skin, fat, and muscle completely from the donor site. Surgeons then attach this tissue to the chest and reattach the blood vessels.

You may also be able to choose the area that provides the tissue for your reconstruction breast. Tissue can be taken from the thighs, back, hip/buttocks, and abdomen.

Immediate breast reconstruction is done when you have your mastectomy. During the procedure, your surgeon removes the cancerous breast tissue. Then a plastic surgeon reconstructs a new breast or places a tissue expander. Tissue expanders are used for delayed breast reconstruction. Delayed breast reconstruction is performed during a separate procedure after you’ve had a mastectomy. Most delayed reconstruction procedures are done between six to 12 months after mastectomy. However, they can also be performed several years after your initial procedure. Choosing between the two is often a matter of preference.

After breast reconstruction using implants, you will feel sore for about one to two weeks. Total recovery time ranges from four to eight weeks depending on the timing of your reconstruction. Meanwhile, autologous breast reconstruction recovery is much longer. With immediate reconstruction after a mastectomy, you will need an average of eight weeks to recover. Certain types of autologous reconstruction, such as procedures using tissue from the back, may have shorter recovery times.

Yes, it is possible to develop breast cancer after breast reconstruction. Having breast reconstruction does not increase or decrease your risk of recurrence. Thankfully, it is a myth that breast reconstruction makes it more difficult to detect breast cancer recurrence.

Although the frequency of breast reconstruction has grown by nearly 40 percent since 2000, still less than half of women who undergo a mastectomy get breast reconstruction, according to this study from 2014. Some women may desire to avoid extra surgery. Some women simply do not feel a need for breast reconstruction and are content going flat. A few do not have the option of breast reconstruction. Unfortunately, many women also are not informed of their eligibility for breast reconstruction. Ultimately, our hope is for each woman to know her options and make the choice that is right for her.

Breast reconstruction, as with most surgeries, is associated with risks related to anesthesia and wound infection. These problems often appear immediately after surgery and can result in your implant becoming damaged. Autologous reconstruction, which uses a flap, has similar risks. Additionally, you may experience partial or complete flap necrosis. This results from a lack of blood flow to the reconstructed breast and may require surgeons to remove the flap.

No. Neither silicone nor saline implants increase your risk of breast cancer. They may slightly increase your risk of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). This rare form of cancer affects the immune system and appears in only three in 100 million women. The FDA has examined the connection. Based on its findings, there is a slight correlation between ALCL and implants with textured surfaces.

Capsular contracture occurs when a breast implant is surrounded by thick, firm scar tissue. This capsule causes the breast to look and feel hard. A 14-year study published in 2012 found that neither smoking or alcohol use increases the risk of capsular contracture. However, infection, implant type, and pregnancy do. Silicone and gel implants have a higher rate of capsular contracture than saline implants. You may also be more likely to develop capsular contracture if your implant was placed over the chest muscle or you experience bleeding after the operation.

In the United States, most plastic surgeons charge between $3,000 and $4,000 for breast reconstruction. However, this price does not include the cost of anesthesia or other expenses associated with reconstruction. When all of this is added into the base price, breast reconstruction costs cost between $5,000 to $9,000. The actual cost depends on the surgeon, the facility being used, the medical equipment needed, and the type of reconstruction that is performed.

Tissue expanders are temporary, expandable breast implants. They stretch the muscle and skin in the chest wall to ensure there is room for a more permanent breast implant in the future. Tissue expanders are not always needed and may be unnecessary if you’ve had a mastectomy that preserves the skin of your breast.

Just like implants, saline tissue expanders can leak. This causes your breast to appear deflated. Leaks may result from a puncture during surgery or compression during a mammogram. Injuries to the area are also common causes of tissue expander leaks. Talk to your physician as soon as possible if you suspect your tissue expander is leaking. The fluid within the expander won’t harm you, but damaged tissue expanders are more likely to get infected. Damaged expanders are typically removed and replaced.

Not necessarily. This largely depends on the type of breast reconstruction you want and the amount of radiation you will receive. Radiation therapy does make breast reconstruction more challenging. However, there are options. Radiation therapy doesn’t limit you to just implant-based reconstruction either, if that’s not your desire.

Have questions we’ve not answered? Let us know.