What Is and Isn’t a Breast Reconstruction?

When considering breast reconstruction, it’s essential to know and understand all the facts, like what is involved in breast reconstruction and what isn’t. What types of procedures and methods are available? What are the limitations, risks, benefits, and drawbacks of these different surgical options, and how will different results look and feel?

Extensive knowledge and information surrounding a procedure are considered one of the best ways to ensure success, instill confidence, and improve your ability to precisely express the results you’re after when discussing with a plastic surgeon. For example, you should first know that breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure that recreates breasts after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. However, breast reconstruction is not a way to enlarge, reduce, lift, or revise a previous breast operation. Instead, there are procedures to address those issues, including breast augmentation, breast reduction, breast revision, and breast lift.

The team at Bryan Armijo MD in Dallas, TX, understands and profoundly empathizes with our patients who have had to undergo a life-changing breast cancer diagnosis. For that reason, Dr. Armijo has devoted time and training to finding the best methods and approaches to recreate natural-looking breasts for women who have had to undergo a mastectomy. Please continue reading to learn more about his approach to breast reconstruction to better help you make an informed decision regarding your surgery.

What Qualifies as a Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a surgery that aims to replace breasts that have been removed during a mastectomy or lumpectomy to prevent breast cancer from spreading throughout the body. A breast mound is carefully crafted to come as close as possible to the look and feel of the patient’s natural breast. Breast reconstruction can also be used to reconstruct one or both breasts. If only one breast needs rebuilding, the goal of the surgery is to come as close to the opposite breast as possible. If both breasts need to be removed, the goal is to create both breasts to match the size of the woman’s natural breast size and shape from before their mastectomy.

What Are the Different Types of Breast Reconstruction?

Breast construction falls under two categories: implant-based reconstruction and flap reconstruction. Implant reconstruction relies on saline or silicone-based implants to help replace the removed breast tissue. When your reconstruction is done with implants, Dr. Armijo begins your procedure by placing tissue expanders after your mastectomy. The expander is a special type of implant fitted with a small port that allows saline to be added to each implant over the course of a few months. This approach allows the skin to gradually expand to create a new breast pocket. Once you’re happy with the size of your breasts, Dr. Armijo will remove the expanders and insert the permanent silicone gel implants.

DIEP Flap (also known as autologous) reconstruction uses the patient’s skin and tissue from a secondary location on the body, usually from the abdomen. This technique produces breasts that look and feel the most natural, so it’s perfect for women with smaller chests who would like to avoid using implants.

What Is the Difference Between Breast Reconstruction and Breast Augmentation?

Breast augmentation and breast reconstruction surgery are entirely different procedures that share some similarities. Breast augmentation is designed to increase the current volume, projection, and shape of the breast using implants. Silicone implants come pre-filled in various sizes and feel the most like natural breast tissue. Saline implants are inserted into the chest and filled with a medical-grade saline solution. Patients choose breast augmentation if they have naturally petite or flat breasts due to genetics, pregnancy, age, and breastfeeding.

Breast reconstruction aims to restore the function and appearance of the breast after a patient has undergone a mastectomy or due to a congenital disability where a woman never properly grew breasts through puberty. In many instances, a woman will move forward with a mastectomy after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis to stop cancer from spreading. A single mastectomy involves the removal of one breast, and a double mastectomy consists of the removal of both. A lumpectomy involves only a portion of the breast tissue being removed.

What Is the Least Invasive Breast Reconstruction Method?

Many patients choose the implant-based breast reconstruction method because it has a shorter recovery time compared to the DIEP flap-based reconstruction and only involves one incision site. Most patients who undergo an implant-based reconstruction feel better after just one week, whereas patients who choose to have flap-based reconstruction may need multiple weeks to heal. Implant reconstruction is also the ideal method for patients who don’t have enough excess fat to permit a fat transfer. However, not all women prefer the look or feel of silicone or saline implants. The choice is deeply personal and should be decided between you and your surgeon.

What Percentage of Mastectomy Patients Get Breast Reconstruction?

More and more women are electing to undergo breast reconstruction after a mastectomy every year. In a study done in 2014, researchers found that more than 40% of women who underwent a mastectomy chose to have breast reconstruction surgery because of its positive effects on their self-esteem and personal life. In the last nine years, that percentage has increased as our culture continues to place emphasis on physical appearance.

Psychologists and physicians have also noted the emotional and mental benefits of undergoing breast reconstruction to help patients heal from the trauma of their breast cancer diagnosis. It can be disheartening to see the scars of a mastectomy every day. With reconstructive surgery, patients find healing and acceptance and move forward with hope and confidence.

Which Breast Reconstruction Is Right for Me?

Implant-based reconstruction is generally reserved for women with smaller or deflated breasts as it provides the most volume. However, a flap reconstruction feels the most like natural breast tissue since the tissue used is taken from your own body (usually the abdomen). Still, this method can only be performed if you have enough excess tissue to adequately form new breast mounds.

The type of breast reconstruction you decide to undergo is a deeply personal choice. Each type of breast reconstruction offers potential benefits and risks that must be considered in the decision process. Dr. Armijo will walk you through the various options for breast reconstruction so that you can make an educated and informed decision regarding which option will best suit your needs, goals, and unique situation.

Choosing the Best Breast Reconstruction Surgeon

You’ll have to make many decisions when deciding to have a breast reconstruction surgery, but the most important one is finding a plastic surgeon who makes you feel heard, comfortable, and that you can trust. As one of Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute’s leading reconstructive breast surgeons, Dr. Bryan Armijo has helped countless women put cancer behind them and feel beautiful in their bodies again. Our team focuses on the reconstructive process and the patient as a person. We work closely to understand each patient’s individual story and needs and engage with them to ensure they feel comfortable and empowered on their journey.

Learn More About Breast Reconstruction with Bryan Armijo, MD

For many women, breast reconstruction is a pivotal and personal part of their healing journey after breast cancer surgery. Surgery is a way for many women to put cancer behind them and regain agency in their life again. To learn more about your breast reconstruction surgery options, contact us through our website to schedule a consultation with Dr. Armijo.