Breast reconstruction

Some women who plan to have a mastectomy decide to have breast reconstruction. Other women prefer to wear a breast form (prosthesis) inside their bra. Others decide to do nothing after surgery. All of these options have pros and cons. What is right for one woman may not be right for another. What is important is that nearly every woman treated for breast cancer has choices.

Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy, or later on. If radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan, some doctors suggest waiting until after radiation therapy is complete.

If you are thinking about breast reconstruction, you should talk to a plastic surgeon before the mastectomy, even if you plan to have your reconstruction later on.

There are many ways for a surgeon to reconstruct the breast. Some women choose to have breast implants, which are filled with saline or silicone gel. You can read about breast implants on the Food and Drug Administration Web site at

You also may have breast reconstruction with tissue that the plastic surgeon removes from another part of your body. Skin, muscle, and fat can come from your lower abdomen, back, or buttocks. The surgeon uses this tissue to create a breast shape.

The type of reconstruction that is best for you depends on your age, body type, and the type of cancer surgery that you had. The plastic surgeon can explain the risks and benefits of each type of reconstruction.

You may want to ask your doctor these questions about breast reconstruction:

  • Which type of surgery would give me the best results? How will I look afterward?
  • When can my reconstruction begin?
  • How many surgeries will I need?
  • What are the risks at the time of surgery? Later?
  • Will I have scars? Where? What will they look like?
  • If tissue from another part of my body is used, will there be any permanent changes where the tissue was removed?
  • What activities should I avoid? When can I return to my normal activities?
  • Will I need follow-up care?
  • How much will reconstruction cost? Will my health insurance pay for it?


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