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7 Things You Might Not Know About Delayed Breast Reconstruction

What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure performed by a board certified plastic surgeon after your mastectomy or lumpectomy. The procedure restores the shape, size, appearance of the breast you lost to your breast cancer treatment. During this trying time — actually, before your mastectomy or lumpectomy — you have to decide if you want an immediate breast reconstruction or a delayed procedure. There are pros and cons to each.

An immediate breast reconstruction happens right after your mastectomy, while you’re still under general anesthesia. A delayed breast reconstruction surgery comes weeks, months or even years after your mastectomy or lumpectomy. At Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and the Hamptons, board certified cosmetic surgeons may advise you to delay your breast reconstruction for seven specific reasons.

  1. You May Require Further Cancer Treatments

Your breast cancer surgeon and your plastic surgeon advise against immediate breast reconstruction if you need more treatments for breast cancer. It’s often prudent to wait until you get a clean bill of health that shows the cancer is completely gone before you even think about replacing your missing breast. Further cancer treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Further surgery
  • Invasive tests, such as biopsies

The cancer treatment procedures can ruin a reconstructed breast, which may then require a costly breast revision surgery. It’s much better to wait, heal and overcome the debilitating effects of the disease before you make another big decision. Your health always takes precedence. While you heal, you can investigate breast reconstruction options, meet with your cosmetic breast surgeon and develop realistic expectations for the procedure.

  1. Delayed Breast Reconstruction Involves Fewer Risks

Immediate breast reconstruction surgery involves two different surgeons performing two separate procedures:

  1. Your breast cancer surgeon performs the mastectomy or lumpectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon makes certain that all traces of the cancer are removed. It’s imperative for your health that this surgeon is successful.
  2. Your plastic surgeon starts the breast reconstruction surgery as soon as the breast cancer surgeon is finished. Unless your cancer surgeon agreed to perform a nipple-sparing mastectomy, your plastic surgeon has to rebuild your breast using other methods.

Combined procedures are always riskier than two separate surgeries. Plus, you’re already in a weakened state from the first procedure before the second one begins. Your best bet is to wait. Recover from your cancer surgery and then get a breast reconstruction.

  1. Breast Reconstruction After Cancer Treatment Is Always Insured

Under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA), medical insurance must pay for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. Breast reconstruction is considered part of your cancer treatment. Your insurance pays to improve or restore your breast, regardless when you have the procedure, including:

  • The shape of your breast from a lumpectomy
  • The symmetry between your breasts, especially if only one was treated for cancer
  • A prosthesis, even if you use it temporarily while waiting for your breast reconstruction

You don’t have to undergo immediate breast reconstruction to have it covered by insurance. In fact, your plastic surgeon may recommend waiting until you’re sure you’re cancer-free and there were no complications from any of your cancer treatments. The staff at Rowe Plastic Surgery even help you with the insurance paperwork.

  1. It’s Never Too Late for Breast Reconstruction

There’s no ideal time for breast reconstruction. If you need time to recover from the physical and emotional effects of your cancer treatments, you can rest and heal first. You don’t have to rush to have your breasts reconstructed, and there’s no deadline for the procedure.

Surviving breast cancer is a traumatic experience. Take your time and heal. The best time to have delayed breast reconstruction is when you’re ready for it. Other reasons to delay your breast reconstruction include:

  • After you’ve fully recovered from your breast cancer treatment, your plastic surgeon has a better understanding of your condition and can assess your specific needs better.
  • Advances in breast reconstruction procedures also increase the safety of the cosmetic procedure.
  • Whether you wait for weeks, months or years, breast reconstruction still has a life-changing impact.
  • The goals and results of breast reconstruction don’t change, whether the surgery comes immediately after your mastectomy or much later.
  • As long as the breast cancer treatment affected the appearance, size or shape of a breast, you remain a good candidate for breast reconstruction.
  • New procedures for breast reconstruction are developed every few years. New procedures, such as fat transfer breast augmentation, may improve your experience or better deliver what you want.
  1. Delayed Breast Reconstruction Improves Your Quality of Life

The saying that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone applies here, unfortunately. Of course you miss the breast that was snatched away from you by cancer. Of course you grieve its loss and the effects your cancer treatments have had on you. But spending time healing from those treatments gives you a new perspective, including:

  • Breast cancer survivors also survive the traumatic cancer treatments. While you’re fighting the disease, your focus isn’t on your appearance.
  • Once you’re cancer-free, you can turn your thoughts to a delayed breast reconstruction to lift yourself up. The procedure actually gives you something positive to look forward to.
  • The surgery not only restores your figure, but it can also improve upon it, as you can use the opportunity to get breast augmentation for both breasts.
  • The period of time without your breast allows you to reimagine your bustline. If you’ve ever considered a breast lift with implants before, this may be the ideal time to follow through.

With delayed breast reconstruction, you can get full, curvy, structured breasts that accentuate your beauty as a woman. The procedure also relieves pain caused by chest tightness after your mastectomy. Ultimately, this surgery gives you another reason to smile after you conquer the cancer, and it improves your quality of life.

  1. A Delayed Breast Reconstruction Procedure May Be More Successful

If you delay your breast reconstruction surgery until after you’ve healed from your cancer treatments, your plastic surgeon has the opportunity to reexamine your chest. Then, your surgeon can better determine the best technique to reconstruct your breast to meet your goals.

If you had immediate breast reconstruction, the surgeon chooses the best technique, based on the information at the time. In this case, the extra time helps you make more informed decisions. Other reasons a delayed procedure may deliver better results include:

  • During an immediate breast reconstruction, your breast tissue is already stressed from the mastectomy. The reconstruction procedure adds to the complications of the surgery. A delayed procedure gives your breast tissue and your body time to heal.
  • You have extra time to consult with your surgeon at Rowe Plastic Surgery to determine how best to reach your goals. You may change your mind about the procedure you had planned.
  • You may decide to augment or lift your other breast to match the newly reconstructed one, a decision you may not have made with an immediate breast reconstruction.
  1. Your Recovery Is Easier from a Delayed Procedure

Delayed breast reconstruction differs from one woman to another, but you can expect a shorter recovery period when you get a delayed procedure for a number of reasons, including:

  • You’re recovering from just the breast reconstruction, and not that plus the mastectomy. It’s not just a physical difference, but an emotional one as well.
  • You start the delayed procedure from a place of health. You’ve already beaten cancer; now you can look forward to your post-cancer appearance.

Contact the team at Rowe Plastic Surgery in Manhattan, Plainview or Water Mill, NY or in Montclair or Red Bank, NJ before your mastectomy. Talk to a board certified plastic surgeon to determine the best approach to your breast reconstruction. There are many reasons to choose a delayed procedure, but listen to your experienced surgeon when comparing the procedures.

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