Breast reconstruction is a surgery that restores your breast shape after a mastectomy. A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the breast that is performed to treat or prevent breast cancer.
A common type of breast reconstruction utilizes breast implants — either silicone or saline — to restore shape to the breast tissue. The reconstruction can be done at the same time as your mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), or it can be done as a separate procedure (delayed reconstruction); however, a full reconstruction typically requires two or more surgeries. In some unique cases, the reconstruction can be accomplished in one surgery (single-stage reconstruction), but this is usually the exception rather than the rule.
Breast reconstruction is not intended to create an exact replica of the breasts you had previously, however Dr. Buchanan will do his best to shape your new breasts as close as possible to a silhouette similar to what you had before the mastectomy surgery or to a newer, more refreshed look per your ideals and goals.
What Does the Implant-Based Breast Reconstruction Procedure Look Like?
A breast implant or tissue expander is placed either during your mastectomy or in a separate operation. Even if your reconstruction is what we consider “immediate” meaning your implants or expanders are placed during your mastectomy, reconstruction typically requires more than one surgery.
Implants come in teardrop or round shapes and are filled with either silicone or saline (salt water). The texture of the implant also varies, depending on what you choose – some are smooth and some have a slightly rough texture. The implant can also be placed either in front of the pectoral muscle, or behind it. You and Dr. Buchanan will discuss which options you feel best suit you and your desired outcome.
Some women will require the use of tissue expanders in order to stretch the chest skin and surrounding soft tissue to make room for the implant. If you are undergoing immediate reconstruction, a tissue expander is inserted under the skin (and sometimes under the pectoral muscles) of the chest wall. Over the next 2-3 months, we will schedule appointments where we inject saline into the expander using a small valve under the skin. The saline fills the expanders and gradually stretches the skin. This process is usually painless with some patients having some feelings of pressure from the stretching.
Recovery from breast reconstruction is often a multi-phase process. Depending on the complexity of your case, you can expect to spend some time recovering at the hospital where your surgery took place. After returning home, we ask that you abstain from any strenuous activity for at least six weeks. Light to moderate activity levels may resumed after roughly 2-3 weeks, depending on the complexity of your case. As always, we suggest drinking plenty of water, avoiding processed and salty foods, and resting as much as possible in order to assist with a speedy recovery.
How Much Does Implant-Based Breast Reconstruction Cost?
The cost of breast reconstruction surgery varies significantly based on the experience of your surgeon, the technique he or she employs, the complexity of your case, and your geographical location.
It’s also important to note that there are always additional surgery costs associated with your procedure, including:
– Anesthesia fees
– Operating room costs
– Blood or additional medical testing
– Garments for post-surgery
– Miscellaneous expenses, such as surgeon’s fees
If you’ve considered breast reconstruction surgery, but feel like you are limited financially, speak to Dr. Buchanan or one of the VIVIFY staff members about financing options. We do our best to work with each patient by offering financing plans to help her achieve her surgical goals.
Will Insurance Cover My Breast Reconstruction?
Generally breast reconstruction surgery is considered a medically necessary procedure following a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy, and should be covered by health insurance. By federal mandate, if your insurance covers your mastectomy, they are also required to cover your reconstructive surgery, in addition to post-mastectomy benefits, such as tissue expanders. However, you should always check with your provider to be clear on your financial responsibility, if any, before undergoing any surgery.
Finding the Right Plastic Surgeon
During your search for a potential plastic surgeon, you should only consider a surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Board-certified surgeons spend a minimum of 6-8 years in training after medical school to ensure that they are well-trained in both aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.