(Source: NIH / National Cancer Institute) Treatment for breast cancer can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. While having reconstructive surgery is a personal choice, knowing your options can help you better prepare for the future.
What is breast reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is surgery to rebuild a breast's shape after a mastectomy. It cannot give a woman back her breast - a reconstructed breast does not have natural sensations. However, the surgery offers a result that looks like a breast. Most women who had breast reconstruction are glad they did.
In breast reconstruction, a surgeon forms a breast mound by using an implant or tissues from the belly, back or buttocks. Implants are silicone sacs filled with salt water or silicone gel. The type of reconstruction you get depends on your body type, age and cancer treatment.
Source: NIH: National Cancer Institute
Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
What is the best treatment for my type of breast cancer?
- Do I need to have surgery, or will other treatments work? Do I have a choice of what type of surgery to have?
- What types of cancer treatment will I need before or after surgery? Will these treatments be different, depending on the type of surgery I have?
- Will one type of breast surgery work better for my breast cancer?
What are the different types of mastectomy?
- How is the scar different with these surgeries?
- Is there a difference in how much pain I will have afterward?
- Is there a difference in how long it will take to get better?
- Can I have breast reconstruction surgery afterward?
What are the risks of the type of mastectomy I will have?
- Will I have shoulder pain? Will I be able to do the work and sports activities that I want to? Will I have swelling in my arm?
- For which of my medical problems (such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure) do I need to see my doctor before my surgery?
Can I have surgery to create a new breast after my mastectomy (breast reconstruction)?
- What are the different choices? Which choice will look more like a natural breast?
- Can I have breast reconstruction during the same surgery as my mastectomy? If not, how long do I need to wait?
- Will I have a nipple also?
- Will I have feeling in my new breast?
- What are the risks for each type of breast reconstruction?
How can I get my home ready before I even go to the hospital?
- How much help will I need when I come home? Will I be able to get out of bed without help?
- How do I make sure my home will be safe for me?
- What type of supplies will I need when I get home?
- Do I need to rearrange my home?
How can I prepare myself emotionally for the surgery? What types of feelings can I expect to have? Can I talk with people who have had a mastectomy?
What medicines should I take the day of the surgery? Are there any medicines I should not take on the day of the surgery?
What will the surgery, and my stay in the hospital, be like?
- How long will the surgery last?
- What type of anesthesia will be used? Are there choices to consider?
- Will I be in a lot of pain after surgery? If so, what will be done to relieve the pain?
- How soon will I be getting up and moving around?
What will it be like when I go home?
- What will my wound be like? How do I take care of it? When may I shower or bathe?
- Will I have much pain? What medicines can I take for the pain?
- When can I start using my arm? Are there exercises I should do?
- When will I be able to drive?
- When will I be able to return to work?
Source: NIH / MedlinePlus
Key Point 1
Treatment for breast cancer can be overwhelming—both physically and emotionally. Knowing your options—including your options for reconstructive surgery—can help you prepare for the future.
Key Point 2
Improved reconstructive surgery means women who have breast cancer today have better choices…and “choice” is the operative word.
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