When you have completed your breast cancer treatment, it is important to keep regular appointments with your doctor to monitor any lingering side effects, be alert to signs of breast cancer recurrence and address any other symptoms that concern you.
Taking care of your emotional well being, as well as your physical health, should be one of your top priorities. Our coping tips will help you on your path to regaining your familiar sense of self and improving your quality of life.
Tens of thousands of breast cancer survivors have elected to have breast reconstruction surgery. Breast reconstruction rebuilds your breast shape and feel after a mastectomy.
Many women choose to undergo breast reconstruction for very practical reasons. They desire flexibility with clothing options and want to avoid wearing hot, heavy breast prostheses. For other women, choosing breast reconstruction is very personal and related to their sexuality, body image and self-confidence.
In part due to the quality of life benefits of breast reconstruction, many physicians, women’s health advocates and health policy leaders have fought for insurance coverage of these reconstructive procedures.
In 1998 the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act was passed, a federal mandate that insurance companies must cover breast reconstruction, symmetry procedures, and nipple reconstruction whenever a mastectomy is a covered benefit. However, many breast cancer patients are currently uninformed regarding their reconstructive options. Several states are now passing laws to ensure that a breast cancer patient is informed about her reconstructive options and is given an opportunity to consult with a plastic surgeon prior to her mastectomy.
Knowing about reconstructive options often influences a patient’s decision with regard to having a lumpectomy, unilateral mastectomy or a bilateral mastectomy. Therefore, it is important for all breast cancer patients to consult with a doctor about reconstructive options prior to a mastectomy, so you can make a well-informed treatment decision.
Alternatives to breast reconstruction include the use of prostheses—external breast forms that can be customized to match the size and shape of your breast(s). These forms can be inserted into specially constructed lingerie and other apparel for a natural look. You may also choose not to wear prostheses and instead embrace your new shape.
Breast reconstruction can be done at the time of your mastectomy (immediate reconstruction) or at some point afterwards (delayed reconstruction). Reconstruction can use a breast implant, your own tissues or a combination of the two. The breast reconstruction procedure and products that are right for you will vary depending on your desired outcome, personal preferences and several other factors.
Your product options for implant-based breast reconstruction are listed on the linked reconstruction pages in some detail. Use the information on these pages as an educational resource, rather than a comprehensive guide to breast reconstruction surgery. We recommend a consultation with your plastic surgeon to answer any additional questions you may have.
Click here to receive a list of questions to ask your surgeon.
Breast reconstruction using your own tissue without the use of implants is called autologous flap surgery. An autologous flap (referring to your own tissue) procedure uses a combination of skin, fat and/or muscle that is moved from areas such as your abdomen, upper back, upper hip or buttocks to the chest where it is shaped into a new breast.
Not every woman is a candidate for this type of breast reconstruction, and it is best to discuss the pros and cons of these procedures with your surgeon.
Your right to breast reconstruction may be protected under the Federal Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. Learn more about health insurance and breast implants here.