The decision to have breast reconstruction following a mastectomy is a personal one. For some women, the experience of losing one or both breasts can feel as devastating as receiving the cancer diagnosis. Many opt to have breast reconstruction to return to a feeling of wholeness and to reflect their restored health. Those who do often report finding that breast reconstruction restores not only their body, but also their confidence, femininity, peace of mind and sense of self.
Breast reconstruction can be achieved through multiple surgical techniques. While the methods differ, the end goal is the same: to restore a more natural shape, appearance and size to the breast while diminishing any sense of physical loss a patient may experience. Breast reconstruction and cosmetic breast surgery differ in that reconstruction creates an entirely new breast designed to resemble a patient’s natural anatomy as closely as possible, while cosmetic breast surgery focuses on improving the existing breasts.
Breast reconstruction requires a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific goals and your unique body. Dr. Christine Fisher is skilled in a variety of techniques, including traditional implant reconstruction, autologous reconstruction using your own body’s tissue from a donor site, and a method known as hybrid breast reconstruction that combines both an implant and the body’s own tissue to restore the breast.
Breast Reconstruction Methods
As breast cancer treatment has become more personalized, so have options for reconstruction. Advancements in surgical techniques allow surgeons to offer an increasingly wide range of reconstructive options to provide optimal results for each patient’s body type, goals and lifestyle. There are three main types of breast reconstruction:
Implant Breast Reconstruction
Implant reconstruction restores the size and shape of the breast using a prosthetic implant filled with saline or silicone gel. Dr. Fisher uses silicone breast implants due to their more natural look and feel. Silicone implants are available in both teardrop and round shapes, smooth and textured shells, and a range of sizes.
Autologous Breast Reconstruction
Autologous breast reconstruction rebuilds the breast using living tissue taken from a donor site elsewhere on the patient’s body. The tissue, called a “flap,” is made up of skin, fat, blood vessels and, rarely, muscle. Flaps are typically taken from the lower abdomen, thighs, buttocks or back, then transplanted to the chest where blood vessels are reattached and the new breast is formed.
Hybrid Breast Reconstruction
Hybrid breast reconstruction blends the two previous techniques. Healthy tissue taken from the patient’s body is used for the initial shaping of the new breast. An implant is then placed under the tissue to provide the desired volume and projection. The result is a soft breast that looks and feels natural but is “boosted” with an implant.
Why Choose Hybrid Breast Reconstruction?
Hybrid breast reconstruction can provide aesthetic outcomes that are not possible with either individual reconstruction technique. It gives added volume and projection to new breasts when there is not enough tissue available from a single donor site, making it a practical option for women with less body fat. It can also be a good choice for women who want a larger breast size than their tissue donor sites can provide.
Hybrid breast reconstruction produces a larger breast that retains some of the appealing characteristics of the natural breast. The softness of living tissue helps conceal the look and feel of the implant and can camouflage any palpable or visible wrinkling or scarring that may occur around the implant. Adding a layer of healthy tissue reduces the size of the implant required. In some cases, use of an implant may allow Dr. Fisher to make smaller incisions at the donor site because less tissue typically needs to be removed. The layer of fatty tissue also bolsters the thin skin left by a mastectomy, resulting in a reconstruction that is long-lasting yet natural in feel and appearance.
Who Is A Candidate for Hybrid Breast Reconstruction?
Dr. Fisher will help you determine if hybrid breast reconstruction is an option for you. Good candidates for the hybrid technique are typically interested in autologous reconstruction but lack sufficient body fat to reconstruct their breasts using only native tissue. Some women may also opt for hybrid breast reconstruction if they require the additional volume of an implant to achieve their ideal breast size and projection.
Candidacy for hybrid breast reconstruction can be dependent upon previous surgical procedures performed. You may not be a candidate for specific flap procedures, for instance, if you have previously had a tummy tuck or liposuction in the abdominal area.
Good candidates for hybrid breast reconstruction also:
- Are healthy enough to undergo the procedure
- Understand the risks and benefits of including breast implants as a part of their reconstructive plan
- Have a clear understanding of their surgical goals
- Have received clearance from their oncologist that reconstruction will not interfere with their breast cancer treatment
- Are prepared to invest the time and attention needed for a healthy recovery
- Have reasonable expectations of what breast reconstruction can accomplish
What to Expect During Your Consultation
Dr. Fisher will carefully evaluate your candidacy for hybrid breast reconstruction during a one-on-one consultation. Factors such as your medical history, any planned future treatments, your age, the prior size and shape of your breasts, your desired outcomes from reconstruction and the availability of excess tissue on your body influence the type of restoration that will produce optimal results in your case. Almost all women are candidates for some form of breast reconstruction. Contact our Austin, TX office at 512-815-0123 to schedule your consultation.
Christine Fisher MD