Hearing the news that you need a mastectomy — or making the decision to have a preventive mastectomy — will likely throw your whole world out of balance. Women who have been in this position talk about feeling a whole range of emotions, including fear, sadness, hopelessness, worry and loss. Your breasts are a part of you: perhaps they have been a source of self-confidence, a link to your feminine side or a key part of motherhood. The idea of losing one or both of your breasts is not an easy pill to swallow, even when you know it’s the best decision for your health.
Many women are relieved to hear that breast reconstruction is an option after mastectomy. They feel strongly about undergoing the procedure because they feel restoring their breasts will help them regain a sense of control, wholeness and normalcy after the rollercoaster of battling breast cancer.
However, not all women who undergo a mastectomy want breast reconstruction. It can be normal to not feel drawn to the idea of rebuilding your breasts, given the added recovery time and risks associated with reconstruction surgery. You may want time to adjust to the way your body looks and feels post-mastectomy before making a final decision. In this case, delayed reconstruction can be an option. Additionally, some women may not be candidates for immediate reconstruction. Their cancer status, comorbidities or even the out-of-pocket costs associated with surgery may prevent reconstruction from being an option right away.
At the end of the day, though, breast reconstruction is just that — an option. Perhaps you are ready to make your decision now, or perhaps you’d rather wait a few more years before considering reconstructive surgery. What is most important is that you feel empowered to make the choice that is best for your health and your goals at this time, and not feel pressured into any particular choice while you are still facing cancer treatment.
As a board-certified plastic surgeon with specializing in the full spectrum of breast reconstruction options, Dr. Christine Fisher understands that support and guidance are crucial when facing a breast cancer diagnosis. She is always happy to meet with patients for a consultation to explain the reconstruction process and help women find out if reconstruction is right for them. To learn more about breast reconstruction in Austin, Texas, please call us to schedule your one-on-one appointment with Dr. Fisher. You can also read more below, and hear what real patients have to say about the reconstruction process with Dr. Fisher.
Breast Reconstruction Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Before you make a decision about reconstruction, it is worthwhile to learn about the different types of reconstructive surgery available to you. Using implants, for example, may put less stress on your body and may be more affordable than choosing tissue flap surgery. Alternatively, tissue flap reconstruction may be more appealing if you are not comfortable with the idea of implants. If you are interested in reconstruction but unsure of what type, it is important to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon trained in microsurgery, as they are able to perform living tissue (such as DIEP flap) breast reconstruction in addition to implant breast reconstruction.
One of our reconstructive patients says that Dr. Fisher’s expertise in both implant and living tissue flap procedures drew her to chose our practice: “I interviewed several doctors before my surgery, all very good — I decided to go with Dr. Fisher due to her ability to really explain all types of breast reconstruction options in such detail. Her final work shows the amount of care and effort she took to ensure perfection.”
It’s always a good idea to look for a plastic surgeon who performs all types of breast reconstruction, as this will ensure that you get an expert and unbiased opinion on which procedure will be best for you.
You Don’t Need Reconstruction If You Don’t Want It
About 56% of women have breast reconstruction surgery after mastectomy. There is no rule saying you need breasts to feel confident and comfortable. Many women choose to simply “go flat” in daily life, while others wear prosthetic breasts under clothing. If you know you do not want reconstruction, you can even work with a plastic surgeon to get an aesthetic result you love without breasts. It’s a good idea to show your mastectomy surgeon and plastic surgeon “goal” photos of breast cancer survivors who did not have reconstruction to achieve the look you want. Contrary to popular belief, “going flat” is often a two-stage process. Due to the extensiveness of the mastectomy procedure, many women are left with a concave chest after the first surgery that can be corrected with fat grafting to the chest at a second surgery for a truly “flat” look.
Your plastic surgeon should first and foremost be invested in helping you make an informed decision about reconstruction surgery, whether you choose to proceed or not. A plastic surgeon with a compassionate and personalized approach goes a long way toward making you feel comfortable with either route.
Dr. Fisher’s patients frequently cite her excellent bedside manner and patient-first attitude as standout qualities: “Her surgical skill and the support of her entire team was invaluable. She worked with me and the option I wanted, even though it meant a lot more work for her. Dr. Fisher genuinely cares about the complete well being of her patients.”
If you do not feel as though your surgeon has your best interests in mind, you should feel free to seek a second opinion.
How To Talk To A Surgeon About Breast Reconstruction
As you explore the possibility of breast reconstruction, remember you and your plastic surgeon are equal halves of the equation. Although it’s good to trust your surgeon’s expertise, you should feel like you have a say in your care and that you are choosing a procedure that you understand and want for yourself. Don’t feel pressured to agree with everything your surgeon recommends without asking any questions. An experienced and knowledgeable surgeon will happily educate you about the procedure and spend all the time you need so you feel fully informed.
One of Dr. Fisher’s patients details the kind of patient-to-provider relationship you should look for: “She explains everything upfront and no question or idea from me was dumb or irrelevant; I wanted to feel like a partner in my procedure planning — not a ‘patient’ per se. And that’s how I felt when I went there.”
You deserve respect and dignity throughout the process, whether you move forward with a particular procedure or not. You are a person before you are a patient, and your surgeon should make you feel heard and cared for every step of the way.
Finally, if you are not sure whether you are ready for breast reconstruction, remember that you can always consider the surgery again at a later date. Many women allow their bodies to heal from their mastectomy and plan time away from work so they can get the reconstruction results they really want. Both living tissue and implant reconstruction can be performed at the time of the mastectomy or even years later. Dr. Fisher always recommends scheduling a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon who can walk you through the reconstruction process, give you a complete overview of your options and help you choose whether breast reconstruction is right for you at this time. In Austin, Texas, Dr. Christine Fisher can provide the guidance you need — call us at 512-815-0123 to make your appointment.
Christine Fisher MD