breast reconstruction

breast reconstruction

Who considers breast reconstruction?

Women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer or who have already had their breast removed often consider reconstruction. Breast reconstruction is one of the most rewarding surgical procedures available and can often help a woman move beyond her cancer and the body changes of cancer surgery.

What is breast reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction strives to create a breast that is close in countour, position and feel to a natural breast. Surgery involves the placement of an adjustable tissue expander or the use of tummy or back tissue to replace tissues removed during breast cancer surgery. After the initial surgery, reconstruction involves office visits or further minor procedures to modify or complete the reconstruction.

Reconstruction has no known effect on cancer recurrence or detection, and does not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Post-mastectomy reconstruction can improve appearance and self-confidence -- but keep in mind that the desired result is improvement, not perfection. Federal law requires that all insurance companies cover breast reconstruction.




How is the procedure performed?

Tissue Expanders

  • A balloon expander (tissue expander) is placed through your mastectomy incision under the chest wall muscle.
  • Surgery takes approximately one hour and is performed at the hospital using general anesthesia.
  • In the weeks following surgery small amounts of IV solution are added to the tissue expander to stretch the skin and provide breast fullness.
  • Follow-up procedures are personalized to your goals and individual needs.

Flap Reconstruction

  • Muscle and fat from the back or tummy can be used to replace the breast tissue removed.
  • Additional incisions are required and vary depending on your individual situation.
  • Surgery takes several hours to perform and general anesthesia is needed. Patients stay in the hospital for 2 to 5 days following flap reconstruction.
  • The link below provides a much broader review of these procedures.

What is a normal recovery?

Most patients experience moderate discomfort relieved with prescription medications. A drain is used to prevent fluid accumulation and this is removed in about one week. You may feel tired and sore for several weeks and it often takes 4 to 6 weeks to be back to full, unrestricted activity.

What are the expected results?

A breast matching the volume and upper contour of your natural breast is the desired result. Your reconstructed breast may feel firmer and look rounder or flatter than your natural breast. It may not exactly match or have the same contour as your opposite breast. These differences will be apparent primarily to you. For most mastectomy patients, breast reconstruction dramatically improves both appearance and quality of life.

Are there potential complications?

Breast reconstruction is common and very safe, but no surgery is without potential problems. These are specific to the type of reconstruction performed. They are generally minor, but rarely, more significant problems can occur and these can be reviewed on the link below.


Copy adapted from the joint ASPS and PSEF website.

3395 Lake Ridge Drive address divider icon Dubuque, IA 52003

563-589-9119 (24 hours)

American Society of Plastic Surgeons
© 2022 Plastic Surgery Aesthetics - Erin Kennedy. All rights reserved.