Breast Reconstruction Surgery

A new beginning after breast cancer surgery

What is breast reconstruction surgery?

Breast reconstruction surgery is a procedure that can restore breasts to a near-normal shape, size and appearance after breast cancer surgery. This surgery can be done during a mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or later (delayed reconstruction).

There are a variety of reconstruction options available, including using a flap of your own tissue or a breast implant. The type that's right for you will depend on factors such as your body type, lifestyle and personal preferences.

Who is a candidate for breast reconstruction surgery?

Breast reconstruction surgery is an option if you've lost one or both breasts to cancer. Reconstruction can help restore your shape, size and appearance and improve your quality of life.

To be a candidate for breast reconstruction surgery, you must:

  • be in good overall health
  • have realistic expectations about the results of surgery
  • be willing to commit to the recovery process

Breast reconstruction surgery is not right for everyone. Some women may not be candidates for surgery due to their medical history or personal preferences.

If you are interested in learning more about breast reconstruction surgery, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine if you are a good candidate for surgery and discuss the different options available to you.

What to expect with breast reconstruction surgery

Your surgeon will go over your specific treatment plan for surgery and give you instructions for how to prepare. Depending on your procedure, the surgery itself may take several hours.

Here's what to know about your recovery:

  • You're likely to feel tired and sore for a week or two after implant surgery. This time may be longer if you have a flap procedure, which leaves you with two surgical wounds.
  • Most women can start getting back to normal activities within 6–8 weeks. If implants are used without flaps, your recovery time may be shorter.
  • It may take up to about eight weeks for bruising and swelling to go away. Try to be patient as you wait to see the final result.
  • It may take as long as 1–2 years for tissues to heal fully and scars to fade. The scars never go away completely.
  • Certain types of reconstruction surgery do not restore normal feeling to your breast, but in other types, some feelings might return over time.
  • Ask when you can wear regular bras. Talk with your surgeon about the bra type to wear — sometimes it will depend on the surgery type you had.
  • Follow your surgeon's advice on when to begin stretching exercises and normal activities, because it differs with different reconstruction types.
  • Women who have reconstruction months or years after a mastectomy may go through a period of emotional adjustment once their breast has been reconstructed.
  • Silicone gel implants can open up or leak inside the breast without causing symptoms. Surgeons usually recommend getting regular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of implants to ensure they aren't leaking. (This isn't needed with saline implants.) You'll likely have your first MRI 1–3 years after implant surgery and every two years from then on, although it may vary by implant.

Call your doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms that concern you. These could include new skin changes, swelling, lumps, pain or fluid that's leaking from your breast, armpit or flap donor site.

Benefits of breast reconstruction surgery

Breast reconstruction surgery can restore your physical and mental well-being after breast cancer treatment. Some of the benefits of this procedure include:

  • Improved self-esteem. Breast reconstruction can help you feel more confident and whole after losing one or both breasts. It can restore your sense of femininity and help you feel good about your body.
  • Enhanced quality of life. Breast reconstruction can relieve the physical discomfort of breast cancer surgery, such as pain and scarring. It can also improve your range of motion and make it easier to participate in physical activities.
  • Peace of mind. Breast reconstruction can give you peace of mind knowing that you've done everything possible to restore your body after breast cancer treatment. It can also help you move forward with your life and put cancer behind you.
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Seamless breast care

Our plastic surgeons work harmoniously with your entire breast cancer care team to help ensure a cohesive treatment journey.

Post-cancer surgical excellence

Breast reconstruction after cancer is our specialty. Our team is highly skilled and trained in advanced techniques for optimal outcomes. We even have a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine associate professor working with our team in York.

Comprehensive support

Our cancer care team offers a range of services, including emotional counseling, to support your physical and mental well-being throughout the reconstruction process.

Convenient locations

With cancer care locations in York, Ephrata, Lebanon and Chambersburg, we're making it easier for you to access the care you need.