Delayed Breast Reconstruction


How does delayed breast reconstruction surgery work?

Unlike immediate breast reconstruction, delayed breast reconstruction does not begin at the time of your mastectomy. Delayed breast reconstruction surgery may begin weeks, months or even years after your mastectomy. Your plastic surgeon will begin reconstructive surgery at whatever time you and your care team decides is best given your unique situation.

Two-stage reconstruction is the only procedural option if you elect to have delayed reconstruction surgery. This is because the skin over your chest will have changed shape over time. It will need to be expanded to accommodate a breast implant.

Two-Stage Delayed Reconstruction with a Breast Implant

Two-stage delayed breast implant reconstruction involves a combination of procedures to gradually expand the skin on your chest into the shape of a breast and create a pocket for the breast implant to occupy.

Delayed breast reconstruction starts with the placement of a breast tissue expander. The breast tissue expander is gradually filled with sterile saline fluid to expand and grow your skin. Several months later, the tissue expander is replaced with a breast implant after enough new skin has been created to obtain the best result.

Potential Advantages of Delayed Breast Reconstruction Surgery
  • Some women find the breast cancer diagnosis to be overwhelming and would prefer to delay any decision-making that is not directly related to treating the cancer. Delayed reconstruction minimizes added pressure by allowing you to have more time to consider your reconstructive options.
  • Delayed reconstruction allows your team of physicians to expedite other cancer treatments—such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy—if healing difficulties with reconstruction are anticipated.
Potential Disadvantages of Delayed Breast Reconstruction Surgery
  • Because reconstruction does not begin when your mastectomy occurs, delayed reconstruction involves at least one more visit to the hospital.
  • Scarring from your mastectomy may make reconstruction more difficult.
  • Some women experience emotional distress related to the lack of a breast mound after a mastectomy.
Additional Breast Reconstruction Procedures

It is important to understand that any breast reconstruction surgery (with or without breast implants) may require multiple procedures. Your surgeon may also recommend a procedure that provides better symmetry or balance between your breasts. These symmetry procedures for the unaffected breast can include breast augmentation with an implant, breast reduction or a breast lift.

You may additionally desire to have nipple reconstruction. These minor, outpatient procedures help recreate your pre-mastectomy breast appearance. You should discuss your options with your plastic surgeon for best results.

The exact number of procedures and estimated recovery times will vary for every woman. Your general surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist should work together as a team to plan your individual reconstructive process. As a reminder, it is important for you to know the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, a federal law passed in 1998, ensures your right to have these types of symmetry procedures and nipple reconstruction covered by your health insurance provider.

Delayed Breast Reconstruction Product Options

Delayed breast reconstruction surgery is a two-stage procedure that involves the initial placement of a breast tissue expander that is later replaced by a breast implant. Below is a brief discussion of your product options. Talk to your plastic surgeon to decide which products will yield the best reconstruction results given your specific needs.

MENTOR® Tissue Expanders

Tissue expanders are used in two-stage immediate breast reconstruction surgery to expand the skin and create a shaped pocket for the breast implant to eventually occupy. The tissue expander is removed when your breast tissues can accommodate the breast implant you have selected. Click here for more detailed information about the different types of tissue expanders.

MENTOR® Breast Implants

When your tissues have expanded enough to accommodate a predetermined additional mass, the tissue expander will be removed and a breast implant will be put in place. Mentor offers silicone implants and saline implants that adhere to the highest standards of safety on the market today. Click here for more detailed information about the different types of breast implants.

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