For women that have lost a breast as a result of cancer or other serious medical condition, recovery is achieved on several fronts. Losing a breast can lead to a debilitating lack of confidence, affecting quality of life, and a positive approach moving forward can seem a ‘bridge too far’ after suffering such a setback. Therefore, along with providing reassurance and encouragement during this vulnerable time, plastic surgeons and former patients recommend breast reconstruction as an important stage of the recovery phase for most women.
Regaining symmetry of breast size and shape will restore positive body-image and improve long-term outcomes. The courage required to fight cancer and undergo a mastectomy cannot be underestimated, and it’s only natural that women who triumph over illness want to restore balance in every facet of their life. Fortunately for women in Sydney and surrounding areas, highly qualified help is at hand. Dr Peter Laniewski is one of our leading plastic surgeons specialising in breast reconstruction surgery, with the experience and expertise to provide solutions for every breast reconstruction scenario.
For most women, breast reconstruction is a valuable part of the healing process. As the patient, you are the priority and this isn’t the time to undergo an operation solely to fulfil other peoples expectations for a return to perfect body image. The damage caused by a mastectomy or other operation varies greatly from person to person, so every breast reconstruction is an individually tailored procedure. Breast reconstruction surgery can recreate a natural looking breast, but there are limitations in restoring the exact feel and appearance compared to the breast that has been removed.
Breast reconstruction surgery can be performed at the same time as the mastectomy in many cases. However, if you require further healing time from associated cancer treatments, the breast reconstruction can be delayed. Although it is a traumatic time, realistic goals and a positive outlook are necessary. With the right mind-set a breast reconstruction can become a physically and emotionally rewarding experience, and a huge step closer to regaining quality of life.
Outcomes are variable depending on underlying conditions, and your new breast won’t have the full range of feeling as the one removed. There will also be visible incision lines on the breast as a result of the mastectomy or reconstruction. These will fade dramatically over time.
Modern breast reconstruction techniques as performed in Sydney by Dr Laniewski include tissue expansion and a breast implant. The tissue is expanded over successive weeks prior to the placing or the implant, and although the procedure can be temporarily uncomfortable, the final result is usually considered well worth it.
In some cases, a tissue flap skin graft is preferred, and although the shape of your new breast will be in symmetry there can be variations in skin colour and texture. In this situation, there will also be incision lines at the donor site, typically located in the buttocks, back or abdomen. Further improvements in symmetry can be achieved by undergoing a breast lift, breast augmentation or breast reduction for the opposite unaffected breast.
Nipple reconstruction is another procedure that will restore a more natural breast appearance. The nipple is usually removed during a mastectomy as a caution against the return of any cancer. Nipple reconstruction is often a relatively simple outpatient procedure performed under local anaesthesia. Many women have nipple reconstruction done after breast reconstruction when tissues have settled and healed. Adjustments to the position or size of the breast can also be carried out at the same time the nipple and areola are being rebuilt.
Coming the the point of breast reconstruction surgery has been a long road toward full recovery from a mastectomy or other medical condition. Getting this far is a triumph, and you are nearing the completion of the recovery process. The surgery itself can take from one to six hours and recovery will initially be in a hospital room. During this time you will be monitored closely, and there will be some discomfort for several days.
By the second or third day, most patients are able to walk around unaided. The length of the hospital stay is usually only a couple of days, or up to five or six days for patients who have undergone a flap procedure. During this time you will probably require IV fluids and drains at the incision sites.
Dr Laniewski and his expert staff will provide all information for ongoing at-home care and recovery. Soreness and swelling will continue for approximately two or three weeks, and you will be required to apply medications and change bandages for practical wound care and healing.
It will be a couple of weeks before greater movement and exercise is performed comfortably, and a return to work is usually possible within two months. There can be numbness and tightness around incision and surgery areas, but in time considerable feeling may return to your breasts. During this time the shape of your reconstructed breast will also improve. Apart from regular check-ups and ongoing self-examination you will soon be back in action, probably with more strength, determination and zest for life than ever before.