If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or are planning to have a preventive mastectomy, you’ll want to know about breast reconstruction surgery to decide if it’s right for you. Breast reconstruction can be done in a variety of ways to rebuild your breast or breasts.
We understand that you may be overwhelmed by many difficult decisions and a variety of choices. Discuss your options with your breast surgeon and plastic surgeon as soon as possible if you’re considering breast reconstruction. It’s important to understand how the type of breast surgery you have can influence your reconstructive options.
What are the first steps in breast reconstruction?
The first step is deciding what type of breast reconstruction is right for you. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to rebuild the breast: using an artificial implant or using tissue from another part of your body (often called flap surgery). If only one breast is affected, your doctors may recommend having some kind of surgery on the other breast —such as a breast lift, breast reduction, or breast augmentation. This will help match the reconstructed breast with the natural breast as closely as possible.
Do your research and find out what your options are. If you're at MSK you're in the best hands. Get in touch with people who have been through it. Be comfortable with the options your surgeon offers. Know there are limitations within your own body and trust the recommendations that are made to you.
Be prepared to be very emotional, sad, tired, in pain, anxious, self- conscious. But it does get better with time. [This] seems like it was so long ago. In the scheme of your life, a few months or more is worth it, to me, to avoid the possibility of breast cancer returning or spreading.
When I look at myself I don't really feel like I'm standing in someone else's body. It just feels like it's part of me. I feel comfortable in my body.
Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Breast reconstruction, regardless of the type you choose, is a process that will take several months and involve multiple doctor visits and procedures.
Most women start with temporary implants called tissue expanders, which are later swapped for a permanent implant. Some women get permanent breast implants during mastectomy.
- Shorter hospital stay
- Quicker recovery
- Avoids scars elsewhere on the body
Autologous Flap reconstruction
Reconstruction using your own tissue is called autologous. The tissue is usually skin, fat, and sometimes muscle.
- Longer hospital stay
- Reconstructed breast looks natural and ages naturally
- Scars elsewhere on the body
MSK offers the most types of autologous tissue reconstruction:
Other surgical enhancements to the appearance of your breasts may also be part of your breast reconstruction process. When appropriate, your doctor may speak with you about revision surgery, nipple reconstruction, and oncoplastic reconstruction.
Choosing No Reconstruction
You don’t have to have breast reconstruction after a mastectomy. You can instead “go flat.”
Some women choose to go flat and stay flat forever. Some decide they want breast reconstruction later — months or even years later. Delaying reconstruction is usually possible. Talk to your doctor about your options for breast reconstruction in the future if you choose to go flat after a mastectomy.
- Quickest recovery
- Simplest procedure
- Most cost effective if no insurance
Why Choose MSK for Breast Reconstruction
There’s a lot on your shoulders right now. MSK can help make these challenging times easier for you.
Take comfort in knowing our surgeons are highly trained and internationally recognized for their expertise in all types of breast reconstruction. They perform hundreds of surgeries every year, including complex reconstructions and revision surgeries on women who are unhappy with their original reconstruction. At MSK, our surgeons collaborate with medical oncologists, dermatologists, radiation oncologists, and more on each patient so we can evaluate and meet your goals and minimize recovery time. Ultimately, we want to help you get back to being you.
When you choose MSK, you’ll also find compassionate care from talented nurses, exceptional rehabilitation programs, and integrative medicine specialists. And to help you feel your best on the inside, MSK offers a range of emotional support resources, both online and in-person.
What I love about [MSK] is that they were so honest. They said, 'You made the right decision for you.' I needed my doctor saying that to me.
The entire experience felt like my decision. I never felt persuaded. I was given all the options. I didn't feel alone. I felt very comfortable and confident in all my doctors. That played a huge role.
The latest breast reconstruction techniques.
These include surgeries using new types of implants or tissue from other areas of your body. Our surgeons are highly skilled at complex microsurgery techniques that lead to better outcomes and fewer complications.
Our Team. Here for You.
At MSK you’ll receive compassionate care from a team of experts before, during, and after your surgery. We’re here for you every step of the way
This includes skilled care from nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who specialize in working with patients who are recovering from breast cancer surgery and breast reconstruction. They’ll care for you both at your bedside while you are in the hospital and in our surgeons’ offices as you recover to help deliver the best follow-up care during postsurgical checkups. Learn more about what to expect after reconstructive surgery.
A commitment to patient satisfaction. We track satisfaction and use those results to continuously improve outcomes and quality of life for our patients. The Breast-Q satisfaction questionnaire, which was developed at MSK and is now used around the world, helps us evaluate your unique needs.
Dr. Matros and his nurses really took the time to explain things to me and show me pictures. I can't say enough good things about the care I got. All of this felt right for me.
Women really need support. The hospital was excellent with that. The social workers were great.
Get the Support you need at MSK
MSK offers compassionate care from a team of experts oﬀering the latest breast reconstruction techniques. We’re here for you every step of the way, before, during, and after surgery.
Financial Services at MSK
Managing the cost of your cancer treatment can be stressful and diﬃcult. To speak with someone about your options, contact your Patient Access Coordinator (PAC).
Support & Helpful Resources
Your mental health is important, too. We offer many resources to help you through the emotional aspects of breast reconstruction.