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Breast Reconstruction

Also known as reconstructive mammaplasty or postmastectomy surgery

Breast reconstruction is most often done to restore the form and shape of the breast, following mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. Factors such as individual anatomy, aesthetic goals and the need for any postsurgical chemotherapy or radiation will determine your options. Discussing your cancer surgery with a plastic surgeon before undergoing mastectomy is crucial, because the proposed cancer removal surgery may significantly affect the choices you have for breast reconstruction afterwards.

When to Consider Breast Reconstruction

  • If you think reconstruction will give you a sense of psychological well being or a feeling of “wholeness”
  • To help restore your feelings of femininity and confidence in your appearance
  • To improve symmetry if only one of your breasts is affected
  • To allow you to wear low-cut necklines and normal swimwear

Considerations For and Against


  • You will not have to cope with wearing external breast forms or pads.
  • This is a way of removing any reminders of your mastectomy and cancer experience.
  • It can help you feel better about how you look and restore confidence in your sexuality.


  • Breast reconstruction involves additional surgery, medical appointments and possibly additional costs.
  • Breast reconstruction may interfere with the natural state of your body, which has just returned to normal health.
  • A reconstructed breast will not have the same sensation and feel as the breast it replaces.

Are You a Good Candidate for a Breast Reconstruction?

Some things you need to consider and discuss with the surgeon before having breast reconstruction are:

  • Results are best if you are not overweight (BMI under about 30).
  • You don’t have blood circulation problems or other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Diabetes and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma, increase the risk of wound healing problems and infections.
  • Smoking interferes with blood flow and can cause problems after surgery, delay healing and lead to larger scars.
  • Radiation therapy significantly affects the timing and even the type of breast reconstruction you will undergo. It delays wound healing and can cause the skin to darken and tighten. Reconstruction, which may be delayed for months after radiation, may include the use of your own tissue to help replace some affected skin.
  • Chemotherapy following mastectomy can also affect the timing of your reconstruction.
  • Previous surgical history, past medical history and coexisting illnesses are factors in determining whether this surgery is suitable for you.

If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.

Related Procedures

If one breast is reconstructed, a breast lift, breast reduction, or breast augmentation may be appropriate for the other breast to keep symmetry.

More Information

To see a good descriptive illustrated PDF prepared for American Society of Plastic Surgery all about breast reconstruction (and copy it if you like) look here on the downloads page.

Exerpt from ASAPS Smart Beauty Guide