Women who experience breast cancer must often have one or both breasts removed to combat the disease. Other women will lose a breast due to an injury or different type of illness. No matter the reason, losing a breast can leave women with deep emotional scars that are often just as painful as the medical condition they suffered from. At Carp Cosmetic Surgery Center in Green and Beachwood, OH, patients in the Akron, Cleveland and Canton areas can obtain a new lease on life through breast reconstruction surgery performed by board-certified physician Dr. Steven Carp.
If You’re Considering Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is one of the most important surgeries for a woman who has won the battle against breast cancer. The surgery is also very valuable for women who have experienced changes to their breasts as the result of trauma and other medical conditions. By restoring a woman’s sense of femininity, breast reconstruction has both emotional and physical benefits.
As awareness about the implications of breast cancer increase, women now have access to exceptional surgeons who are highly skilled in the newest breast reconstruction techniques. Today’s surgeries result in an appearance that mimics a woman’s natural breasts, further enhancing her sense of confidence.
To the extent possible, breast reconstruction should be performed during the same surgical appointment as the breast removal, or mastectomy. The approach reduces healing periods, costs, and the emotional effects of living without one or both breasts. While this is the optimum timeframe, breast reconstruction may be scheduled in the future for various reasons.
In addition to the timing of your breast reconstruction, Dr. Carp also provides guidance on many other aspects of the procedure. Decisions regarding your surgery should be made well in advance to allow time for you to make an informed decision. A basic understanding of breast reconstruction is the first step toward deciding if the surgery is right for you and will also help you develop a timeline for the procedure. Dr. Carp is always available should you have any additional questions.
The Best Candidates for Breast Reconstruction
Unfortunately, breast reconstruction is not always an option, but most women are good candidates for the procedure. If your breast was removed due to cancer, your oncologist should determine that the surgery successfully removed all signs of cancer. Additionally, the emotional impact of battling cancer can leave you feeling depleted, so you may wish to delay your breast reconstruction until you are feeling better. After cancer treatment, you may wish to give yourself time away from medical settings as part of your personal healing process.
If your breast reconstruction requires extensive repair, your surgeon may recommend waiting until the skin and tissues are able to withstand the surgery. Lastly, you may need to make some lifestyle changes before breast reconstruction, such as not smoking, losing weight, and getting your blood pressure under control.
Typically the only time that breast reconstruction is not an option is if you do not have adequate tissue for the surgery. But with today’s advanced breast reconstruction techniques, these types of cases are very rare.
Planning Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
During your consultation, Dr. Carp will examine your breasts and, if applicable, the area where your breasts were removed. Based on your medical history, health status, and reconstructive goals, he will recommend the techniques that are best for your case. He will explain both the advantages and disadvantages, so you fully understand the expected outcomes and feel confident in your decisions.
Preparing for Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Dr. Carp works very closely with your oncologist and other medical specialists to ensure a successful outcome for your breast reconstruction surgery. Once the details are determined, Dr. Carp will then explain the procedure and any steps you need to take in preparation for your surgery. He may recommend that you stop taking medications and supplements. Since he works directly with your other healthcare providers, you will know that changing your medication schedule is safe. You will also have some restrictions on eating and drinking during the 24 hours before your surgery.
We recommend that you have someone bring you to your surgery. You will feel tired and sore after the procedure, so you may not be able to drive yourself home. Having someone stay with you after the surgery can also help you feel more comfortable.
Your breast reconstruction may be performed at the same time as your mastectomy or during a future surgical appointment. You should follow all recommendations from Dr. Carp and your medical team for both surgeries. You may also need additional treatments or surgeries after your breast reconstruction. Dr. Carp will explain these procedures during your consultation and follow-up appointments.
Types of Anesthesia
Breast reconstruction requires general anesthesia. Should you need additional procedures after breast reconstruction, Dr. Carp will use either a local anesthesia or general anesthesia, based on the extent of the procedure.
Types of Breast Implants
One of the first choices you make on your road to recovery after breast cancer is the type of implant to be used for reconstruction. Dr. Carp explains each implant design, including the benefits of each. Breast implants are available with either silicone or saline inside a silicone shell. Implants are also available in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Some women have adequate skin for breast implants after their mastectomies, but for those who do not, Dr. Carp may recommend skin expansion. Generally, the procedure involves two steps, but multiple procedures may be required to fully carry them out.
The first step is to expand the remaining skin in the breast area to allow for the implant. Skin expansion is achieved by using a balloon expander. The balloon has a tiny valve that allows Dr. Carp to gradually expand it with small amounts of saline solution. As the balloon increases in size, your skin expands to create a pocket for the implant. Surgery is then performed to insert the implant, and Dr. Carp may remove the expander or leave it in place. The final step of the process is a third surgery to recreate your nipple and areola.
Another method used to increase the amount of skin and soft tissue for breast reconstruction is using a flap from another area of your body. The flap may be completely removed from your buttocks, back, or abdomen, or Dr. Carp may use a flap from your abdomen that remains connected to the original blood supply.
If the flap is completely removed from the donor site, the tissue is transplanted to your chest area and shaped to resemble your natural breast. When the flap is only partially removed from your abdomen, the tissue is fed underneath your skin to your breast area. Dr. Carp may insert a breast implant or use the harvested tissue to form the breast.
Of the two techniques, the flap technique is the most complex in nature. Scarring occurs at both the site where tissue was harvested and at the site of breast reconstruction. The flap technique also requires a lengthier healing time than the skin expansion technique. The benefits of the flap technique, though, are a more natural appearance to the breast and perhaps a more defined waistline.
After the breast is reconstructed, you may need additional surgeries to reconstruct the breast and areola and refine the appearance of your breasts. These procedures are usually far less extensive than your mastectomy and breast reconstruction. If you have only one breast reconstructed, Dr. Carp may recommend surgery to the other breast to improve symmetry between the two. If you elect to have surgery on your natural breast, your medical insurance will likely not cover the cost.
After Your Breast Reconstruction Surgery
You may have to stay in the hospital for up to five days after breast reconstruction. For the first two weeks after being released, you may be very tired and sore. You should allow yourself time to rest so that your body can heal naturally. Dr. Carp may prescribe pain medications and antibiotics. You may have a drain and sutures that are removed within two weeks of the surgery.
How Much Does Breast Reconstruction Cost?
Because breast enhancement may be done as the result of a mastectomy, insurance may cover some or all of the expenses. To help make breast reconstruction affordable and accessible for everyone, Carp Cosmetic Surgery Center offers financing options. We also accept cash, personal checks, and major credit cards.
Getting Back to Normal
Give yourself at least six weeks to recover fully from your mastectomy and breast reconstruction, especially if you undergo flap reconstruction. Your actual recovery may take less time if you have implants or if you do not have the mastectomy and reconstruction done during the same surgery. Dr. Carp will advise you about the anticipated timeline of your recovery during your consultation.
You may have some sensation in your reconstructed breast, but it will not be the same as what you experience with your natural breasts. Scars are most visible during the initial healing, but over time, those scars will fade.
Dr. Carp will guide you regarding activity restrictions, including work, exercise, and sexual activity.
Your New Look
Your reconstructed breast may feel firmer than your natural breast, and the shape may also be slightly different. Even with these small imperfections, you regain your femininity, which can go a long way toward helping you heal.
If you live in and around Akron, Cleveland or Canton, don’t let cancer rob you of your ability to look and feel attractive. Instead, contact Dr. Steven Carp, M.D., F.A.C.S., at his Green or Beachwood, OH clinics to find out if breast reconstruction surgery is right for you.