The benefits and risks of breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients

The benefits and risks of breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients

The two most common types of breast reconstruction methods are the breast implant and the flap reconstruction. The first method uses silicone implants that are inserted underneath the breast skin and tissue to recreate the shape of the breast while the latter technique employs relocating tissue, skin, fat and muscle from different parts of the body to the area where the breast is to be rebuilt.

Both techniques are now common practices but one may be better suited for certain women than others. However, both methods also have their own respective set of advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before any decision is made.

Breast Reconstruction With Breast Implants:

Looking at breast implants first, patients need to know that this method is quicker than the flap reconstruction option. Silicone implants can be inserted without having to remove tissue or muscle from other parts of the body and the recovery time after the operation is less than from the somewhat more complicated flap reconstruction procedure. In addition, there is a variety of shapes and sizes that can be recreated by choosing a breast implant.

On the flip side, a silicone implant may sometimes cause an infection. Since the material placed in the insert is foreign to the body, there may also be scar formation around the implant. Occasionally this may lead to discomfort and some form of deformation in the area. The procedure is not considered complete without a minimum of two operations that are accompanied by multiple visits to the health practitioner. In the end, the entire process can last for up to six to nine months.

Silicone implants have a limited life and will need to be replaced after ten to fifteen years unless they leak or rupture earlier.

Breast Reconstruction With Flap Reconstruction:

The second method of breast reconstruction uses muscles and tissue from different parts of the body to recreate the breast. To achieve this, surgeons need to relocate the required tissue and muscle to the chest region where it can be reshaped into a new breast.

Complicated as it may sound, this method eliminates many of the problems associated with implants; there is no risk of leaks or ruptures and as such subsequent replacement, the reconstruction is at no risk to deflate over time and no foreign material is placed in the body. After the initial scars have healed, flap reconstruction is considered permanent and will be able to keep its shape and feel for a long time. However, the shape and look may change with weight fluctuations of the individual.

Even though the long-term results of flap reconstruction are generally positive, the procedures as well as recovery times are longer for this type of operation. Some patients may be at a risk of infection if the flap does not heal fully and depending on the type of flap reconstruction done, there is the possible risk of suffering from hernia, loss of flap resulting from poor circulation or fat necrosis; a rare side effect where surrounding fat tissue collapses and dies.


1. Should I have a reconstruction?:

2. After the operation:

3. Types of breast reconstruction: