A breast cancer diagnosis is scary and upsetting. Not only is it’s life threatening nature frightening but it can also mean a lot of changes for your body. For many women, breasts are a feature that makes them feel feminine and sexy and if they were to change or be removed for a mastectomy it might make them feel like less of a “woman.” Of course, breasts are not what make a woman – not at all, but many women who have undergone treatment that involves removing part or all of their breasts want options and ways to reconstruct. Breast reconstruction has come a long way. Today, incredible transformations can be achieved with breast reconstruction. The issue is a complicated one that involves more than just outward appearance. Health and emotions must also be considered because even with outward reconstruction there is much physical and emotional healing to be achieved. But, for patients who want to and are ready to, breast reconstruction can be transformative and a helpful tool in the healing process to restore normalcy to life.
Breast reconstruction can be life changing for many women after cancer treatment. The National Cancer Institute describes how breast reconstruction is done and the various techniques it can be with which it can be achieved, “Breast reconstruction surgery can be either immediate or delayed. With immediate reconstruction, a surgeon performs the first stage to rebuild the breast during the same operation as the mastectomy. A method called skin-sparing mastectomy may be used to save enough breast skin to cover the reconstruction. With delayed reconstruction, the surgeon performs the first stage to rebuild the breast after the chest has healed from the mastectomy and after the woman has completed adjuvant therapy. A third option is immediate-delayed reconstruction. With this method, a tissue expander is placed under the skin during the mastectomy to preserve space for an implant while the tissue that was removed is examined. If the surgical team decides that the woman does not need radiation therapy, an implant can be placed where the tissue expander was without further delay. However, if the woman will need to have radiation therapy after mastectomy, her breast reconstruction can be delayed until after radiation therapy is complete. Breasts can be rebuilt using implants (saline or silicone) or autologous tissue (that is, tissue from elsewhere in the body). Most breast reconstructions performed today are immediate reconstructions with implants.” The specific chosen approach will depend on your unique circumstances as well as the recommendation of your doctor and plastic surgeon. In addition to physically reconstructing the breast, visual appearance can be simulated to that of a normal breast with tattoo artwork. Depending ont he level of treatment and form of reconstruction, the physical nipple may have be removed. While the shape can be achieved through surgery, the color and general appearance cannot be achieved through surgery alone. The nipple and areola can be tattooed onto the newly constructed breast with a trained and highly skilled tattoo artist that specializes in breast reconstruction work. BreastReconstruction.org describes what is involved in nipple and areola tattoo, “The finishing touch to breast reconstruction is having your nipple areola tattooed. This is usually done in your plastic surgeon’s office. Tattooing is a simple, fast procedure. There is no need to be scared. If you are matching a new nipple areola to the existing breast, your plastic surgeon will mix various colors and shades to get the correct pigment. If you had bilateral reconstructions, your surgeon can use your preoperative photos to recreate the nipple color, or you can pick a new color that you like against your skin tones. As with any tattoo, the pigment will fade in time. Getting the right shade of color may require more than one tattoo procedure. If you are having nipple tattooing alone, with no nipple reconstruction, you may want to look for a doctor that specializes in giving your tattoo a three dimensional appearance.” To determine what is right for you based on your individual health and personal preferences, consult your physician for advise so that you can make an informed decision about breast reconstruction.