Appointments

866.320.4573

Submit a Form

Questions

800.223.2273

Submit a Form

Live Chat Hours: 9:00a.m.-3:00p.m., M-F EST

Expand Content

Treatments & Procedures

An Overview of Breast Reconstruction

Reconstructive plastic surgery for breast cancer is performed to replace skin, breast tissue, and the nipple removed during mastectomy. The amount of missing tissue varies with each mastectomy. Factors contributing to the amount of tissue removed include the width, size, and location of the original tumor, and its proximity to the armpit (called the axilla), where the lymph glands are removed.

The ultimate goal of reconstruction is to restore symmetry between the two breasts.

Is reconstruction right for me?

The choice that is right for one woman won't necessarily be right for another. That's because the long-term prospects of living without a breast or part of a breast affect every woman differently.

After your mastectomy, you might choose to wear external breast forms or pads, or make no attempt to alter your appearance. On the other hand, you might choose breast reconstruction, using either breast implants or your own tissue.

Improvements in plastic surgery techniques offer better results today than ever before and make breast reconstruction an option for most women facing a mastectomy.

Many women believe that breast reconstruction not only improves physical appearance, but has psychological benefits as well. It's thought to promote a sense of wellness for the woman and her family.

The decision, however, is a personal one and is often not easy to make.

Is this considered cosmetic surgery?

Restoring the breast is not considered cosmetic surgery. Operations performed to restore anatomy and symmetry, like breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, are considered reconstructive surgery. Since breast reconstruction after mastectomy is part of the treatment of a disease and not cosmetic surgery, according to the American Medical Association, health insurance companies usually pay the major portion of the cost of the procedure. Contact your insurer about your coverage.

When is the best time to have reconstruction?

Timing of reconstructive surgery is based on the woman's desires, other medical conditions, and cancer treatment. Whenever possible, plastic surgeons encourage women to begin breast reconstruction at the same time they are having their mastectomy. For many women, immediate reconstruction reduces the trauma of having a breast removed, as well as the expense and discomfort of undergoing two major operations.

It is also possible to do the reconstruction months or years after a mastectomy. If chemotherapy or radiation treatments have been started, reconstruction may need to be postponed until those treatments are completed.

The surgical team can help you decide the best time for reconstruction.

© 1995-2009 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/23/2008...#11714