Life After Mastectomy

breast reconstructionBreast cancer is a leading cause of death among women. In Australia, experts estimated that there would be about 15,200 women diagnosed with the condition this year. Common treatments for breast cancer are mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Mastectomy is the process of removing the breast to stop cancer cells from spreading. Physicians often recommend this procedure when the cancer has spread to more than one area of the breast. Doctors may also suggest mastectomy when the tumour is big in proportion to the breast. As the surgery changes the physical appearance of a woman, some cancer patients undergo a reconstruction procedure through breast implants or flap reconstruction a few months after their surgery.

Breast Implants

After mastectomy, doctors will give patients a temporary ‘breast form’ that they can pin inside their bras. When the surgical site is no longer sore, the patients may start preparing for breast reconstruction. During a breast implant surgery, doctors create a pocket under the muscle and skin, where they will position the artificial implant.

Flap Reconstruction

Flap reconstruction involves getting fat, muscle and skin on a different area of the body and using them to recreate the shape of the breast.

  • TRAM Flap – This type of reconstruction requires getting muscle, fat and skin from the abdomen. The TRAM Flap method fits women with loose abdominal skin. It offers a more natural looking breast than implants, but the procedure may leave a huge scar on the abdomen.
  • LD Flap – In a Latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction, doctors get a portion of skin, fat and muscle from the back. Surgeons may also insert an implant to achieve the desired breast size.
  • Other Tissue Flaps – when the skin on the abdomen or back isn’t enough to recreate the breast, doctors may also harvest fat, skin and muscle from the buttocks and hip.
  • Breast-sharing Reconstruction –Those with large breasts may be able to use the remaining tissues to reconstruct the breast.

Life after mastectomy isn’t always easy for cancer patients. When you or a loved one is having a difficult time adjusting to the new body image, consult specialists about reconstruction procedures, breast forms and other options.

About the Author

As a New York-based psychologist. Thelma Scott has conducted several seminars tackling adult autism.