A breast cancer diagnosis is a scary and emotionally draining time for a patient and their families. Although biopsies are necessary for a proper diagnosis and surgical of cancerous tissue is a lifesaving treatment, the results of these procedures can leave patients feeling self-conscious about their appearances. Breast cancer survivors can be left with altered senses of femininity, sexuality, and sensuality. The asymmetry which accompanies breast cancer surgery can be challenging when it comes to wearing bras, fitting in clothing, and being physically active.
Dr. Waltzman believes it is imperative that all women undergoing breast cancer surgery be educated about their options regarding breast reconstruction. Dr. Waltzman works with a team of highly trained surgical oncologists and breast surgeons in Long Beach, CA. Together, they formulate an individualized plan for each patient to support oncologic safety while providing the best aesthetic results.
Is breast reconstruction right for me?
The decision to aesthetically restore your breasts after cancer treatment is a highly personal choice. Everyone has different reasons for their desire to pursue treatment; there are no “correct” answers.
In general terms, you are a good candidate if:
- You are healthy enough to undergo general anesthesia and recover from the surgeries performed during breast reconstruction.
- You are emotionally prepared for the fact that sometimes there can be setbacks. It is important you have a support structure that will allow you to handle these potential setbacks.
- You have realistic expectations and goals
- You understand that breast reconstruction is a process and is typically not completed in one procedure.
What to expect during your consultation
Dr. Waltzman will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam that will focus on specific measurements of your chest and breasts. While it is not required, it is a good idea to bring a friend or family member with you on the day of your initial consultation. This person can take notes for you and write down potential questions. Dr. Waltzman will discuss your specific goals for reconstruction and present the available options. The typical initial consultation is about 60-90 minutes. We know that patients have a lot of questions and we make sure that we have plenty of time to make sure we can address all of them. Additional consultations are common, which serve as further opportunities to ask questions or go over the reconstructive plan.
Immediate vs. delayed reconstruction
Immediate reconstruction is performed on the same day as the mastectomy. Delayed reconstruction is performed at some point in the future. A delayed reconstruction can take place several weeks to several years after the initial mastectomy. There are a variety of reasons why your surgeon might decide that a delayed reconstruction is a better option. This is discussed on a case by case basis. Delayed reconstruction can also be performed for a patient who did not have access to reconstruction at the time of mastectomy or who chose to wait for a physical and emotional recovery from mastectomy before persuing augmentation.
Implant vs. autologous tissue reconstruction
The majority of the breast reconstructions performed in the United States are with a tissue expander and implant. At the time of mastectomy, a tissue expander is placed in the chest. Over the coming weeks, the expander is slowly filled with fluid that will gradually stretch the skin and provide a shape to the reconstructed breast. Filling the expander is a simple process that is performed on a weekly basis in Dr. Waltzman’s office. After reaching the desired volume, a second surgery is performed where the expander is removed and a soft, permanent implant is placed. The same scars are used from the first operation to minimize future scarring.
Breast reconstruction can also be completed with the patient’s own tissue (autologous) to reconstruct the breast. The most common donor sites are the abdomen and the back. This type of reconstruction by definition requires placing an incision on another part of the body. This type of reconstruction has the advantage of natural skin and fat being used to reconstruct the breast, providing a very natural feel. The surgery time is often longer when compared to restoration with an implant.
Not every patient is a candidate for implant-based or autologous reconstruction. Depending on your body type and the type of therapies needed to treat your cancer, Dr. Waltzman creates a treatment plan that meets your needs and is support your ongoing health and wellness.
Stages of breast reconstruction
Your procedure will be a customized process, which makes it important to find a surgeon who is a good match for you and who you feel comfortable with. You will be seeing this surgeon for multiple office visits and likely several surgeries.
Occasionally, complete aesthetic restoration can be accomplished in one stage at the time of mastectomy. However, after a total mastectomy, it’s typical to complete reconstruction in several stages, some of which include tissue expander placement, removal of the expander and placement of an implant, nipple reconstruction, and possible revisions in the future.
Dr. Waltzman works with most major insurance carriers in the area. Contact our office to schedule a consultation if you, or someone you know, are considering breast reconstruction surgery in the Long Beach, CA area.