Family Med-eZine TeamTuesday, 26 Aug 2014, 07:24 pm

Mastectomy or breast cancer removal surgery is one of the commonest treatment modalities employed in women with breast cancer. This surgery results in the loss of either a part of or the whole breast, depending upon the extent of the cancer. Most women find it difficult to cope with the physical scars that breast cancer surgery leaves behind while emotionally, they may feel insecure, unattractive and unaccepted. 

Can I ever look the same?

Breast removal as a part of surgery is highly distressing to a woman.  However, it is important for such women to realise that today, medical science has advanced tremendously and offers a number of feasible options, which can help her feel whole, complete and attractive again. One such option is using a prosthesis (a wide range is available in the market), to simulate natural-looking breasts. Breasts can also be reconstructed by a procedure where an artificial breast mound is built (skin and tissue from other parts of the body are used OR artificial implants are used) such that it mimics a natural looking breast or the contralateral breast (both in size and shape). Reconstructing the breast with the use of implants or other body tissues can be done either immediately, or can be scheduled weeks or months after mastectomy.

Immediate breast reconstruction

Immediate breast reconstruction involves performing the reconstructive procedure soon after the mastectomy. As both procedures are performed during the same operation, it gives a lot of aesthetic and emotional relief to the woman. It helps restore her sense of self with the normal breast profile restored, even while the cancer is removed. However, immediate breast reconstructions have a higher risk of complications. They involve a longer hospital stay and may also hinder other procedures like radiation therapy that may be needed later on.

Delayed breast reconstruction

In delayed breast reconstruction, the procedure is delayed for a few weeks or months after the mastectomy, to allow for adequate healing and scope for other treatments. However, in this case, one has to deal with the temporary period without the breast, which can be quite emotionally disturbing for many women.  

The treating surgeon and medical team are best placed to advice on which type of breast reconstruction best works for the woman, in consultation with her, depending on her medical status and personal choices.

A well-planned and successfully performed breast reconstruction surgery can help restore a woman’s sense of worth, rebuild her self-esteem and can assist her to get back to a normal life after the emotional turmoil of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.