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.
Does insurance cover breast augmentation?
In most cases, breast augmentation is elective cosmetic surgery and therefore insurance carriers will not cover the procedure or any necessary follow-up visits. It is possible that your premiums for future insurance coverage may increase. Additionally, insurance might not cover the procedure should you want your implants removed in the future. Therefore it is important to receive your doctor's charges in writing.
However, if you are having implants put in as part of reconstructive surgery, your insurance carrier may provide coverage. It's very important that you find out well in advance what type of coverage your carrier may provide.
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Augmentation Accessed 4/11/2014.
- US Food and Drug Administration. Medical Devices: Breast Implants Accessed 4/11/2014.
- Breast Implant Task Force. BreastAugmentation: Is it for me? Accessed 4/11/2014.
- Losee JE, Gimbel M, Rubin J, Wallace CG, Wei F. Chapter 45. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In: Brunicardi F, Andersen DK, Billiar TR, Dunn DL, Hunter JG, Matthews JB, Pollock RE. eds. Schwartz's Principles of Surgery, 9e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010. library.ccf.org Accessed 4/11/2014.
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