October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, organized by multiple well-known charities in the US to support the women dealing with this disease. This annual awareness campaign involves thousands of organizations to bring attention to breast cancer and raise funds for research and treatment. Many women who have fought and beat this deadly disease elect surgery to remove the cancer from their breast tissue. Many are now choosing breast reconstruction surgery to rebuild the look of the breast mound and improve their personal quality of life. Losing a part of your body, a part of yourself, can affect you in ways you have never had to experience. Emotionally healing from breast cancer can present in many ways, and each woman’s path will be different.

 

What is breast cancer?

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and breast cancer is ranked the highest for new cases being reported. About 1 in 8 women born in the US will get breast cancer, so chances are, you know someone battling against the disease. Breast cancer can start in any area of the breast, but it is common for it to begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple. Many types of cancers cause a lump in the breast, and most women are aware of the need to do self-checks periodically. It is crucial to note that not all cancers will cause a lump, and regular mammogram screenings are recommended to catch early-stage cancer. Breast cancer is not limited to the breast tissue, if it gets into the lymph nodes or into the blood, it can travel to other parts of the body. It is vital to educate yourself and your female loved ones on the signs of breast cancer and how to properly check and get tested. This article will focus on the female perspective, but males can develop breast cancer, too, although it is a rare circumstance.

What is Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

During treatment for breast cancer, some or all of the breast tissue may need to be removed for survival. These surgeries are known as breast-conserving surgery and mastectomy. The removal of tissue can result in scarring, dimpling, and loss of mass, which many women wish to restore. Breast reconstruction surgery provides women with options on how they would like to heal aesthetically from their cancer. In some cases, fat is grafted in place to correct dimples and minor skin issues after surgery. If a woman chooses to add back the mass that was lost and alter the shape, an artificial implant can be put in place, much like having a breast augmentation. Skin flap surgery is when tissue is taken from one part of the body and moved to the chest to rebuild the breast.  It is possible to schedule a reconstruction surgery at the same time as the breast cancer surgery depending on the medical situation. If reconstruction isn’t done immediately, a woman can still make this choice at a much later time when she feels ready.

 

Side Effects and Recovery

After breast reconstruction surgery, a woman could spend several days in the hospital. This is major surgery, and skin flap surgery takes longer to heal than inserting implants alone. In the two months following this surgery, a woman might experience varying amounts of discomfort.

  • Pain, bruising, and swelling are common
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Restricted movement, especially involving the arms and chest muscles

 

Deciding if breast reconstruction surgery is right for you is a very personal choice. Some women may not want to undergo any further surgery after their cancer treatment, while others may desire reconstruction to feel whole again. The journey will be different for every woman, and knowing the options available will help during such a difficult time. Talk to your doctor and the certified plastic surgeons at The Lett Center to make an informed decision based on your unique cancer recovery.