Re­con­struc­tion, YES or NO?

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Good -

If you opt for a mas­tec­tomy, you should be of­fered re­con­struc­tion – ei­ther us­ing tis­sue taken from an­other part of your body and/or a sil­i­cone im­plant – which can be done im­me­di­ately if the rest of your treat­ment al­lows, or at a later date. Some women with con­di­tions that can lead to com­pli­ca­tions post-surgery may be ad­vised against re­con­struc­tion and, if you have ra­dio­ther­apy af­ter mas­tec­tomy, you’ll prob­a­bly be ad­vised to de­lay it for a year. It’s a ma­jor de­ci­sion and, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, less than a third of women have im­me­di­ate re­con­struc­tion af­ter mas­tec­tomy. If you have an im­me­di­ate re­con­struc­tion it may give a more nat­u­ral re­sult, as the sur­geon can use most of your ex­ist­ing breast skin, but it doesn’t leave you much time to think it through. Re­con­struc­tion means you won’t have to wear a pros­the­sis and can help your con­fi­dence, but it in­volves two to three ma­jor op­er­a­tions, you may have very lit­tle sen­sa­tion in the new breast and scar­ring if tis­sue is taken from else­where in your body. It won’t give you a ‘per­fect’ breast but many women are happy with the re­sults and you can have bal­anc­ing surgery on the other breast so that they look even. If you’re feel­ing un­sure, talk to or­gan­i­sa­tions that sup­port women who have had a mas­tec­tomy: keepingabreast.org.uk and flat­friends.org.uk

If you de­lay the re­con­struc­tion de­ci­sion, do speak to your sur­geon if you think you may want re­con­struc­tion in the fu­ture. Although guide­lines say there should be no time lim­its on breast re­con­struc­tion or ac­cess to bal­anc­ing surgery, new re­search by Breast Cancer Now shows that some clin­i­cal com­mis­sion­ing groups are re­strict­ing women’s ac­cess by cap­ping the num­ber of surg­eries they can have, putting time lim­its on surgery or lim­it­ing avail­abil­ity of bal­anc­ing surgery.

QUES­TIONS TO ASK

◆ Can I talk to a plas­tic sur­geon be­fore surgery about the op­tions for re­con­struc­tion and see some pic­tures?

◆ Will I need surgery to the other breast?

◆ How well will re­con­struc­tion work for me – how suc­cess­ful is it likely to be in terms of ap­pear­ance?

◆ How many op­er­a­tions will I need and how long will my re­cov­ery take?

‘IF YOU’RE UN­SURE, TALK TO SUP­PORT GROUPS FOR WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD A MAS­TEC­TOMY’

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