Breast cancer is an illness that will affect up to 232,000 women in 2013. In some of these cases, mastectomy will be necessary to ensure that the cancer will not spread. Breast removal can be a traumatic surgery for many women, but advances in reconstructive surgery allow surgeons to restore their appearance and their self-image.
Understanding Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is a procedure that rebuilds the breast that has been lost through mastectomy to remove cancer from the woman’s body. A number of steps are required for reconstruction. Some may use implants made of silicone or saline. Other techniques use tissue from other parts of the woman’s body. If only one breast has been affected by cancer, only one side may be reconstructed. Though surgery on the unaffected breast may be necessary to “match” better with the reconstructed breast. Generally, reconstructed breasts will not have the same sensation or feeling of the natural breast. In addition, some scarring may be evident from the mastectomy procedure itself or from techniques used during reconstruction, although every effort is made to minimize these scars.
Who Gets Breast Reconstruction?
Though not all women who have mastectomies choose reconstruction, many women opt for the surgery each year. Good candidates for reconstruction surgery are those who have dealt well with their illness and treatment, those who have no medical conditions that might affect the healing process after reconstruction and those who have realistic expectations for the results of the surgery.
Physical Benefits of Breast Reconstruction
The physical benefits of reconstruction include having a similar appearance as before mastectomy, no worries about wearing a breast form and having normal cleavage of the breasts as before surgery. These features can be instrumental in helping a woman to return to her normal life and activities after breast cancer treatment.
Psychological Benefits of Reconstruction
When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, they often become deeply fearful about losing their breasts to the disease. When this actually occurs, they may experience deep feelings of physical loss, depression and a diminution in their feelings of femininity. They often avoid looking at their naked bodies and avoid sexual contact. Breast reconstruction can help their sense of “wholeness,” attractiveness and femininity. They can begin to fully enjoy their lives after cancer treatment.