Breast Cancer Reconstruction Surgery with Flap: aka Breast Cancer Reconstruction, Mastectomy reconstruction, breast reconstruction with flap
What is it?
When a woman has to have her breast tissue removed due to breast cancer in a mastectomy procedure, many elect to have their breasts reconstructed. There are several reconstruction options, one of which is a flap procedure. A flap procedure is one in which tissue from the woman’s body is used instead of an implant to reconstruct the breast shape and size to similar proportion as it was prior to tissue removal.
Breast cancer reconstruction surgery with flap uses tissues from another part of the body to reconstruct the breast after it is removed in a mastectomy procedure. This is a cosmetic procedure and considered to be unnecessary, although many women prefer to reconstruct their breasts after the tissue has been removed. The most common areas to re-use skin are the tummy, back, thighs or buttocks. There are 2 primary forms of flap procedure that are used, the TRAM flap and the latissimus dorsi flap.
The TRAM flap procedure uses tissue from the tummy area to reconstruct the breast while the latissimus dorsi flap procedure uses tissue from the upper back region to reconstruct the breast.
Both of these flap procedures leave 2 scars, one on the breast where the tissue is inserted and one in the area that the tissue is harvested. While these scars will often fade with time, they are typically still visible and should be taken into consideration prior to undergoing the procedure.
Alternatives to Surgery
Some women choose not to have this cosmetic procedure done after their breast tissue is removed due to breast cancer. In this instance, there are bra enhancers and other non-cosmetic items that can help a woman to feel as though she still has the look and feel of breasts while fully clothed.
Before the Operation
The plastic surgeon will often review specific instructions that will need to be followed prior to surgery, such as eating and drinking the day before. It is important to follow each of these instructions prior to the procedure in order to achieve the best possible outcomes from surgery.
After the Operation- In the Hospital
In the hospital, the recovery phase is typically the time that the patient will be awaking from anesthesia. Also, each medical facility or physician will have specific requirements that the patient must meet prior to their departure from the hospital, most often including sitting up and keeping down fluids. It is important that the patient have a driver to take them home following the procedure.
After the Operation- At Home
After the procedure, it is likely that the patient will experience discomfort for several days and that it will take several weeks to fully recover. Your surgeon may use a drain, and if so there will be a follow up appointment within a few days to remove this. To soften the breast tissue and to help scar tissue from forming, the surgeon will generally recommend massage daily. It is important to follow the instructions from the physician fully to avoid any complication while healing at home. If the patient notices any abnormalities, it is important to notify your surgeon immediately.
While not all patients will experience side effects or complications from their surgery, it is important to take them into consideration when making the decision to have this cosmetic surgery procedure.
Some risks of breast reconstruction surgery are:
- fluid collection with swelling and pain
- excessive scar tissue
- tissue necrosis (death) of all or part of the flap
- problems at the donor site (immediate and long-term)
- changes in nipple and breast sensation
- the need for additional surgeries to correct problems
- changes in the affected arm
- problems with anesthesia
As this is a cosmetic procedure, it is important to fully consider the risks and rewards of the surgery prior to committing to it. Also, when selecting a cosmetic surgeon, be sure to ask questions about the procedure, the side effects, whether you are a suitable candidate for the procedure and about their personal experience. It is advised to interview with several surgeons prior to making your final selection.
Estimated Cost for Breast Cancer Reconstruction with Flap Surgery