By Dr. Paul Pierce
Throughout my years as a board-certified plastic surgeon, I’ve had countless conversations with patients about the benefits of breast reconstruction. There are several reasons why patients seek out this transformative procedure and—understandably—the prospect of any reconstructive surgery carries with it any number of doubts, anxieties, and questions. As a plastic surgeon who specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, I take it upon myself to do everything I can to ease the concerns of my patients and better help those I serve to understand the many benefits reconstructive surgery can have on both their outward appearance and inner well-being.
For these reasons, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight and answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding breast reconstruction surgery. Regardless of your reasons for pursuing breast reconstruction, I want you to know that these procedures are safe, reliable, and the benefits can go far beyond the physical transformation of your form to bring you peace, closure, and much-needed self-assurance.
Here are Some of the Questions I am Asked Most Often Regarding Breast Reconstruction
Q: What options do I have for breast reconstruction following my mastectomy?
A: You have 3 general options for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy: implant-based reconstruction, autologous reconstruction, or no reconstruction.
Q: What is implant-based reconstruction and is it safe?
A: Implant-based reconstruction involves the placement of a permanent implant to mimic the natural mounding of a breast. The implants used to reconstruct the shade of the breast are the same as those used for cosmetic breast augmentations. In cases of reconstruction, a temporary implant (which acts as a tissue expander) is typically placed at the time of the mastectomy to allow the incisions to heal and slowly stretch the breast skin to the desired size for the final implant.
Breast implants are incredibly safe and current implants have undergone rigorous testing and are approved for use by the FDA. In fact, breast implants are so safe that roughly 80% of breast reconstruction surgeries are implant-based.
Q: What is Autologous Reconstruction?
A: Autologous reconstruction refers to the use of one’s own tissue to provide the breast mound for reconstruction. The most common body areas used to source tissue are the lower back and abdomen. Due to the nature of this procedure, a second surgical site is required for autologous reconstruction, but it can also provide enough tissue to altogether avoid the need for breast implants.
Q: What if I either don’t want or am not healthy enough for breast reconstruction surgery?
A: Undergoing breast reconstruction is ultimately a decision made by the patient. Some patients choose not to have reconstruction for various reasons. If you elect to forgo reconstruction or do not qualify for this procedure for medical reasons, there are options available to you, including a custom bra that gives the appearance of breasts under clothing.
Q: Can I have breast reconstruction if I am actively smoking?
A: Smoking tobacco products is known to cause difficulty with wound healing and increases the risk of post-surgical infections. Patients who smoke can still undergo breast reconstruction, but it will usually be delayed until after the mastectomy has fully healed to ensure all remaining skin is healthy and able to heal properly following reconstruction.
Q: How do you make a nipple and provide the color for both the nipple and areola?
A: Nipples are made by incising a small area of the breast skin, then folding the skin into a cone shape to provide projection. Nipple reconstruction is done as one of the final stages of breast reconstruction and goes a long way in providing a natural final appearance. Additionally, nipple and areola coloring is created through the use of tattooing and is generally the last stage of the breast reconstruction process.
Do You Have Questions that Were Not Answered Above?
If you are considering breast reconstruction surgery and have additional questions, contact Vanguard Skin Specialists today at (719) 355-1585 or by following this link to schedule your consultation.
Dr. Pierce attended the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and completed a plastic surgery residency at Mount Sinai. He also completed an additional fellowship in hand and microsurgery at NYU. Dr. Pierce is one of the few plastic surgeons in Southern Colorado who offers the DIEP flap procedure for breast reconstruction.
Dr. Pierce takes care of patients in Vanguard’s Northgate and Pueblo offices.