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Breast Reconstruction – Every woman’s journey is unique

June 28, 2021

When we hear the words ‘breast reconstruction’ the physical side of surgical restoration comes to mind, but for those women who undergo reconstruction, the emotional and mental wellness benefits are said to be the greatest rewards. Across the past five ears especially, there has been a steady increase in the number of women – worldwide – choosing breast reconstruction as part of their breast cancer journey.

As many breast cancer survivors who have undergone reconstruction will attest to, the procedure goes beyond inserting generic implants to fill a void following a mastectomy. Instead,today’s technologies and surgical expertise, deliver a far more individual approach to patients. One that is driven by personal preference, wellness, and short and long-term goals and expectations.

So, what are the two many breast reconstructive procedures available to New Zealand breast cancer patients – and how do you know which is best for you?

Breast Flap Reconstruction:

This commonly used technique involves using flaps of your own tissue – sometimes with the addition of an implant too –to reconstruct your breast/breasts. This includes taking skin, fat andsometimes muscle, from your back, bottom, inner thighs or lower abdomen. The flaps are then reshaped to form a new breast.

When is flap reconstruction most commonly used?

  • Typically, it is used in delayed reconstruction – especially if radio therapy has or is being administered. Why not implants? Because radiotherapy could cause the skin around the implants to shrink which may lead to scar tissue , or interfere with healing, or cause potential implant leaks.
  • Flap reconstruction is well suited to women with moderate-to-large sized breasts as these have a natural droop.
  • For those wanting a good match for their other breast long-term, tissue reconstruction can provide a better partner as this will naturally conform to gravity, weight changes  and aging – as opposed to an implant which may end up sitting higher in the chest wall.

Breast Implant Reconstruction:

The procedure involves inserting an implant under the skin and muscle to restore the shape and volume of your breast. It can be less extensive and involved than flap surgery – no additional tissue requirements needed – and it is often recommended for women with smaller breasts. Breast implant reconstruction lends itself to a more natural breast shape, which is firmer – however it may move less naturally than a flap reconstruction and sit higher – as age, gravity and weight loss affect the other natural breast.

Implant considerations, include . . .

- As implants have no set life span, they will typically need to be replaced at some point in the future.

- For those opting for delayed breast implant reconstruction, a permanentor temporary tissue expander will be placed behind the chest muscle. Why? This ensures the implant sits in the right place and will disguise its outline. After several weeks after the expander has been inserted, your surgeon will inject the implant with a saline solution to inflate it.

What are the risks of flap and implant breast reconstruction?

As with any surgery, there are always risks, but ensuring you choose a surgeon – with the specialist breast expertise and qualifications to carry out a procedure fitted to you – is your best assurance against complications.

In short, risks with breast reconstruction include . . .

  • Implants - Infection around the implant, capsular contracture – where scar tissue forms around the implant causing it to lose shape and softness.
  • Flap – Small areas of hardness developing in the new breast, temporary loss of movement of the arm on the side of the reconstructed breast, loss of blood circulation at the reconstructed breast.

Want to learn more about breast reconstructive procedures? Speak to our team, we're here for you.

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