Life After Breast Reconstruction: What to Expect
- 24 October 2016
- Dr. Mark Broudo
Breast reconstruction has one ultimate goal: to improve an individual’s quality of life. However, many women who underwent mastectomy are still on the fence about getting this surgery because they are not sure if they will be satisfied with the effects of breast reconstruction.
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To help you figure out what to expect after this surgery, here is a quick guide on what life after breast reconstruction looks and feels like.
How your reconstructed breasts will look like
One of the main concerns of patients after getting a breast reconstruction Miami post-mastectomy is how their breasts would look like. Thanks to advanced breast reconstruction procedures, it is not often obvious that you underwent breast reconstruction when you are fully clothed. But underneath your clothes, you might find changes when it comes to breast shape, size, and symmetry.
The shape of your new breasts often depends on the technique used for your breast reconstruction. If you opted to get round saline implants, your breasts might look round with minimal to moderate projection. If you want implants that have a more natural slope and projection, you may want to get contoured or tear-shaped ones, although not all women have the chest structure to accommodate them.
Breasts resulting from a tissue flap reconstruction often have more desirable shapes, as they can be customized and fine-tuned based on your individual needs. They are also safer than implants, which are always at risk for capsular contraction that can harden the breasts and distort their shape.
Women who undergo breast reconstruction often opt to have breasts that are approximately the same size as their natural breasts. However, you can also make it a bit smaller or larger than your natural ones. Reconstruction can even restore the fullness and position of your breasts if they have been previously dragged down by age, breastfeeding, and gravity.
If you want to get an implant, your surgeon will select a model of appropriate volume to create the size you want. If you go for flap reconstruction, your breast size will depend on the amount of excess fat used in your surgery. You can go for fuller boobs by adding an implant to flap reconstruction.
Symmetry is often an issue in breast reconstruction Miami post-mastectomy because patients tend to expect perfection from this surgery. In general, bilateral reconstruction presents a better chance for symmetry since surgeons can ensure that both breasts are of similar shape, size, and position.
Unilateral reconstruction, on the other hand, is a much trickier business, as it can be difficult to match the natural contour of the unaffected breast. Most women who get unilateral breast reconstruction often get a breast procedure done on the unaffected breast, like a lift, reduction, or augmentation.
Adverse outcomes in a breast reconstruction
Like all other surgeries, breast reconstruction involves a certain degree of scarring. Scars can be somehow minimized when immediate reconstruction is performed, as mastectomy incisions can be camouflaged in the fold under the breast. The same mastectomy scar can also be reopened to accommodate an implant or tissue flap in case breast reconstruction is delayed.
Flap donor scars are often lengthy, but can easily be hidden by bathing suits and underwear. Before your incisions are fully healed, your scars will appear red and prominent. These scars are permanent, though they become less noticeable over time. The appearance of your scars when fully healed depends on age, genetics, lifestyle, how your sutures and underlying tissues were sewn together.
Aside from scarring, another unfortunate effect of a breast reconstruction is loss of sensation. When breast tissues are removed, delicate nerves that provide sensation to the area are also severed, hence leading to sensation loss. It is normal for women to be numb in the frontal chest area but have sensation in the outer perimeters of the breast.
Sensation might still be regained depending on the type of reconstruction technique used. In general, nerve regeneration is more likely to occur in flap reconstruction than implant reconstruction.
The nipples are often not spared during a breast reconstruction Miami post-mastectomy, but they can be recreated for aesthetic reasons. But since they are purely cosmetic, nipples remain numb after a breast reconstruction because they no longer contain nerve endings and muscle fibers.
You cannot expect a reconstructed breast to ever look or feel exactly like your own natural breast. Saline implants often feel quite firm, while silicone implants closely mimic the feel of natural tissue. Breasts stemming from flap reconstruction are the ones that feel most natural because they are made from your own tissues.
Tips on adjusting to breast reconstruction
- Understand that breast reconstruction is not meant to be perfect. It can give you a semblance of the breasts you lost after a mastectomy, but it will not be the same as your natural breasts. Do not overly critical to yourself and establish realistic expectations before you undergo this operation. If you are truly not satisfied with the results of your breast reconstruction, you can opt to get revision surgery.
- Reconstruction takes time. The results of your breast reconstruction do not happen overnight. Patience is required to achieve a good cosmetic effect. At times, a follow-up procedure or scar revision may even be necessary to get your desired effects.
- Be mindful of how your incisions feel. Though your incisions heal over time, there might be times when the scar tissue could feel tight or painful. You might even notice a reduced range of motion in your shoulder or arms after recovering from a latissimus dorsi flap. Do not hesitate to discuss this with your doctor. Most of the time, he would advise you to undergo physical therapy and to massage your scars to keep the tissues flexible.
- Wear a good bra. Though bras with underwire are often not worn until your doctor gives you clearance to do so, it is a good idea to invest in a good bra for support. A lightly padded bra can also give your breasts a nice shape and make a big difference in your outside appearance.
Recovering from a breast reconstruction Miami post-mastectomy can be a daunting task. Talk to one of our board-certified and highly experienced cosmetic surgeons here on Face + Body Cosmetic Surgery about your breast reconstruction recovery concerns. A Free Consultation awaits you.