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Breast Reconstruction Surgery

Underlying Problem Requiring Breast Reconstruction:
Breast reconstruction is a procedure that is generally considered by women who have had or are considering a mastectomy. Having a breast removed affects women in several ways. Breast reconstruction may help to improve self esteem and body issues that often accompany breast cancer and the related treatments and procedures.

Breast reconstruction surgery is now covered by insurance providers in the United States. Previously, the procedure was considered to be purely cosmetic, but it is now recognized that there are a number of benefits associated with reconstruction.

Treatment:
The most common techniques for breast reconstruction include either utilizing tissue expanders with breast implants or a procedure called flap reconstruction. In the first case, a tissue expander is placed under the pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles in the chest. Over the course of a few weeks or months, saline is added to the expanders to cause the overlaying tissue to grow. Once the correct size has been reached, the expanders can be replaced with permanent implants.

Some breast reconstruction surgeries utilize flap reconstruction. This requires doctors to take a portion of tissue from another area of the body, such as the back, thighs, abdomen, or buttocks. In many cases, the blood vessels are left attached, and the muscles are actually moved under the skin to the new location. When the donor tissue comes from the abdominal area, the result is the same as if the patient got a tummy tuck. On the other hand, it can weaken the abdominal muscles, which can be a problem for some patients.

Nipple reconstruction usually happens in a separate procedure. This allows the breast reconstruction to heal and gives the doctors an opportunity to position the nipples and areolas properly. New nipples and areolas may be created using tissue from the other breast, if only one side has been reconstructed. It is also possible for doctors to raise a small flap and create a raised area in the skin. An incision is then made around the raised area in order to create an areola, and the entire area will be tattooed to create a realistic color.

Recovery from Breast Reconstruction:
Breast reconstruction will generally take place over the course of multiple surgeries. Sometimes doctors are able to start the process directly after the mastectomy, but in riskier cases, they must wait. Each surgery will require its own recovery period. Those who undergo a flap reconstruction should expect a longer recovery than those utilizing implants. All-in-all, patients should probably expect a minimum of three to six weeks. Exercise may be limited, especially if it taxes the upper body. Follow-up exams will be required after breast reconstruction to check for further cancer and to monitor the healing of the surgical site.

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