Breast cancer is an unfortunate reality for many women and while mastectomy surgery can be life-saving, the overall experience can also be traumatic. You may be grateful for treatment to remove cancer and restore your health, while still wondering how you will feel in a body that looks so different than the one you are used to. Many women take comfort in the fact that exceptional surgical options exist to restore the natural appearance of their breasts. Breast reconstruction surgery can provide you with a sense of closure after the difficult experience of surviving an illness such as breast cancer, and it can also help you feel empowered in your recovery.
Breast reconstruction requires a very high level of surgical skill and precision, and it is important to choose an experienced surgeon who you trust. Dr. Melanie Prince is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with extensive training and experience in reconstructive breast surgery. Dr. Prince offers breast reconstruction surgery options in Little Rock, AR, and she specializes in compassionate care with natural-looking results.
What is Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery aims to restore the look of natural breasts after mastectomy or lumpectomy surgery. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor may advise you to have surgery to remove all or part of one or both breasts. Patients who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer, but do have a very high risk of developing it may have preventative mastectomy surgery.
Types of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
The decision to have reconstruction surgery is a very personal one, and you have several options. The type of breast reconstruction that will be best for you will depend on your health, your doctor’s recommendations, your feelings about your body and surgery, and other factors — what was right for other women you know may not be the right choice for you. Breast reconstruction surgery should involve a custom-tailored treatment plan, but there are several general types, depending on when you have surgery and the mechanism for reconstruction:
Immediate Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Immediate breast reconstruction combines reconstruction with your mastectomy so you have both procedures in the same timeframe. Immediate reconstruction is not always possible, but if it is an option for you, benefits can include a more positive emotional outcome and better cosmetic results.1
Delayed Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Your doctor may recommend delaying reconstruction for a number of reasons, including radiation treatments after your mastectomy. Some women choose to delay breast reconstruction in order to have more time to consider their options. In some cases, women may not even be aware that reconstruction is possible or they may not realize the range of reconstructive options if no one took the time to discuss this with them during their mastectomy or lumpectomy process.
Implant-Based Breast Reconstruction
Dr. Prince specializes in implant-based breast reconstruction. Typically, a tissue expander is placed first to make room for the breast implant. Once the expander is in place, you will see Dr. Prince for periodic appointments in which she will gradually deflate the air in the expander and add saline. Approximately three months later, the expander will be removed and replaced with a breast implant in an outpatient procedure.
Advantages of Prepectoral Implant Placement
Whenever possible, Dr. Prince prefers to use a prepectoral placement, in which the tissue expander and then the breast implant are placed on top of (rather than underneath) the muscles in the chest. Dr. Prince is one of the few surgeons in the Little Rock area who regularly performs prepectoral implant placement in reconstruction surgery. Studies show that there are several benefits to this technique, including natural-looking results, improved muscle function, and a quicker and more comfortable recovery.2
Autologous Tissue Reconstruction
Autologous reconstruction uses your own body tissue to reconstruct your breasts. Dr. Prince offers fat grafting, which takes your fat from your abdomen or thighs to be used in contouring your breasts, typically in conjunction with implants.
One type of autologous tissue reconstruction is microvascular surgery commonly called flap surgery. This type of surgery involves transplanting fatty tissue with blood vessels from other parts of your body, such as your abdomen or thighs. Some common flap surgeries are DIEP Flap, SIEA Flap, TUG Flap, and TRAM Flap — they each differ in precisely where on your body the transplanted tissue is harvested from and what type of muscle, tissue or fat is used. Dr. Prince does not perform flap surgeries, but she can discuss your options with you and will refer you to another surgeon if a flap surgery is best for you.
Dr Melanie Prince was my breast reconstruction surgeon following breast cancer.Dixie
I especially appreciated a female perspective regarding my breasts after the surgery
for breast cancer. I’m extremely pleased with my results and recommend Dr Prince
and her staff to assist anyone facing this most difficult time of life.
Your reconstruction treatment plan will likely include nipple reconstruction, which can restore a natural look and may even hide mastectomy scars. There are several options for nipple reconstruction. The most common is to reconstruct your nipple projection with a skin graft and recreate your areola (the pigmented circle of skin around your nipple) with tattooing. Women who are not candidates for a skin graft may choose to recreate the appearance of the nipple with a 3-dimensional (3D) tattoo. Nipple reconstruction is typically performed about three months after your breast reconstruction is complete. If you work with a tattoo artist, Dr. Prince can consult with them to ensure anatomically correct and symmetrical placement.
Revision Surgery After Previous Reconstruction
The goal of breast reconstruction surgery is to help you feel comfortable in your body. What happens when you aren’t happy with your reconstruction results? Dr. Prince knows how devastating it can be to undergo cancer treatment and subsequent reconstruction surgery and be left with subpar results. She has helped many women regain their confidence with breast reconstruction revision surgery. She specializes in revision surgery for patients who had implants placed under their pectoral muscle (subpectoral placement) and would like to have implants placed above the pectoral muscle in a prepectoral placement for a more natural look.
Recovery After Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Your recovery from breast reconstruction surgery will vary depending on several factors. In general, you can expect four weeks of activity restriction after your procedure, which means you will need to avoid heavy lifting, exercise, and strenuous activity. Dr. Prince will give you detailed instructions for post-op care. If you are having multiple procedures, you may have time without activity restriction between procedures.
- There are so many options for breast reconstruction, how do I choose?
This can be an overwhelming time and it is important that you focus on your health above all else. It can help to think of your reconstructive process as part of your self-care. You have an opportunity to decide how your breasts will look after surgery, and your options will depend on your aesthetic goals as well as your health and medical history. A consultation appointment with Dr. Prince can help you to better understand which options may be right for you.
- How does reconstruction work if I had mastectomy or lumpectomy in just one breast?
If you had a mastectomy of just one breast, Dr. Prince will often recommend a procedure for the remaining breast in order to achieve symmetry and natural-looking results. A breast augmentation, lift, or reduction in the other breast may be an option, depending on your cosmetic goals.
- Are there risks associated with breast reconstruction surgery?
Any surgical procedure carries some risk of side effects or complications. Your individual risk will vary depending on your medical history and overall treatment plan. Some risks of breast reconstruction include bleeding, infection, fatigue, and anesthesia complications.3 Dr. Prince will advise you of all risks and take steps to prioritize your safety.
- Will health insurance cover my breast reconstruction surgery?
Health insurance provides coverage for reconstruction surgery for patients with breast cancer in almost all cases. Your out-of-pocket costs will vary depending on your insurance plan. It is important to contact your insurance provider to understand what kind of coverage to expect for your treatment plan.
Contact Dr. Melanie Prince for Breast Reconstruction in Little Rock
When you’re going through a tough time, you need a team you can trust. Dr. Melanie Prince is honored to have helped many women in Little Rock regain their sense of self after a breast cancer diagnosis. Contact us with any questions or to schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Prince.
1 MD Anderson Cancer Center. Immediate vs. Delayed Reconstruction. Available: https://www.mdanderson.org/treatment-options/breast-reconstruction/immediate-vs–delayed-reconstruction.html Accessed January 10, 2020.
2 Highton, Lyndsey et al. “Prepectoral Implant-Based Breast Reconstruction.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open vol. 5,9 e1488. 19 Sep. 2017, doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001488
3 The American Cancer Society. What to Expect After Breast Reconstruction Surgery. Available: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/reconstruction-surgery/what-to-expect-after-breast-reconstruction-surgery.html Accessed January 10, 2020.
Dr. Melanie Prince has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.