When you are going through the devastating aftermath of breast cancer followed by a double mastectomy, it’s hard to contemplate what the next step might be. Your life has already been turned upside down, but there are alternatives that can provide some normalcy to your world.
This article from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America discusses possible options for reconstructive breast surgery:
Oncoplastic and Breast Reconstructive Surgery | CTCA
We offer several options for oncoplastic and breast reconstructive surgery to help rebuild the shape of the breast after surgery, minimize scarring, and maintain as much of the breast tissue as possible.
Implant-based reconstruction is the most common form of breast reconstruction. This typically involves the placement of a tissue expander at the time of mastectomy. The tissue expander is gradually filled with fluid over several weeks to stretch the skin and create a pocket for the implant. You and your surgeon will work together to decide what volume is desired.
Once this process is complete, the expander is removed in a second operation and the permanent gel implant is placed. Breast implant technology is continually advancing and many new choices are available, including anatomically-shaped implants. Again, your surgeon will guide you through the decision making process. The final step of reconstruction involves a minor procedure to create the nipple.
In very select instances, it is possible to avoid tissue expansion and perform a single-stage reconstruction with direct placement of an implant at the time of mastectomy.
Autologous flap reconstruction
Autologous reconstruction involves using your own tissue to reconstruct the breast. The surgery is more involved, and the recovery is usually longer. However, this type of breast reconstruction is very natural, which is important to many women. It is also the preferred technique for reconstruction for women who require radiation as part of their therapy.
Read the other options here: Oncoplastic and Breast Reconstructive Surgery | CTCA
The emotional aspect of going through a mastectomy is difficult to say the least. Having reconstruction surgery as soon possible helps relieve the anxiety caused by going through such trauma. This video gives more info on a study concerning the mental stress caused from waiting to have surgery:
Having breast reconstruction surgery is just part of the rebuilding process. Besides the restoration of the breast tissue, there are also techniques to help make the areola and nipple look as natural as possible. One of the more recent developments is to use a 3-D tattoo technique to recreate this area, as discussed in article from BreastCancer.org:
After implant reconstruction or autologous reconstruction, you can decide if you’d like to have your nipple reconstructed, too. Some women do and some don’t — the choice is up to you. You have time to make that decision. Nipple reconstruction is done after the reconstructed breast has had time to heal — at least 3 or 4 months after reconstruction surgery. But you can take longer to decide if you’d like. You can have the nipple rebuilt and then tattooed with color if you wish, or you can have a three-dimensional tattoo that looks like a nipple, although really it’s flat.
Here is a breakdown of your options if you decide to have nipple reconstruction:
Nipple reconstruction using tissue
The nipple may be reconstructed from the surrounding skin at the site desired for nipple placement. The surgeon makes small incisions and then elevates the tissue into position, forming and shaping it into a living tissue projection that mimics the natural nipple. Older techniques, which used donor tissue from the genital region or elsewhere, have become less favored over time.
The new nipple can then be tattooed to add color and create the areola around the nipple. Three-dimensional color shading of a fleshy nipple tends to produce a result with both visual and physical depth. Most medical aestheticians in plastic surgeons’ offices use the dermabrasion technique, which uses a high-frequency vibrating probe to push pigment into the skin. To achieve full color, several sessions may be needed. The range of colors available for dermabrasion may be limited and dermabrasion tattoos tend to fade over time.
Instead of using tissue to rebuild a nipple, some women choose to have a nipple tattooed on the reconstructed breast. Some women decide to have a star, a heart, or another meaningful image tattooed on the reconstructed breast instead of a nipple.
The most realistic results are often achieved with 3-D nipple tattoos, which are basically real tattoos that use oscillating needles coated with pigment. The needles insert the pigment into the skin. This approach essentially creates a “picture” of a nipple and has no physical dimension, but it can look quite real—although it does tend to look better from a distance than very close up. A tattoo artist can use a wide range of colors and one session is usually all that’s needed, although it may require touchup sessions over time. 3-D tattoos are permanent and usually don’t fade. 3-D nipple tattooing can be used to create new nipples and to color-correct previous nipple tattoos that have faded or have undesirable colors.
Read the full post here: Nipple Reconstruction | breastcancer.org
Thankfully there are methods to help those affected by formidable health issues. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and have a positive self image. Even though cosmetic surgery can seem like a luxury for some, for others it is a way to take back their life.