Breast reconstruction surgery is the creation of a new breast shape, or mound, using surgery. It may be done after removal of a whole breast (mastectomy) or part of the breast (breast-conserving surgery).
You can have reconstruction at the same time as breast cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction), or months or years later (delayed reconstruction). Breast reconstruction often involves several operations to give you the best outcome possible.
There are usually different options available for breast reconstruction and your breast surgeon will explain which one is likely to suit you best.
The new breast shape can be created using an implant and/or your own tissue from another part of the body, usually the back or lower abdomen (belly). Reconstructed breasts don’t usually have a nipple but one can be created with surgery and tattooing. Prosthetic stick-on nipples can also be used.
The aim of breast reconstruction is to create a breast shape that looks as natural as possible and to try to match the breast on the other side in size, shape and position. However, even with the best outcome, there will be differences between the remaining breast and the reconstructed one, and sometimes surgery on the other side can help. This can be done at the same time as the reconstruction, but waiting for the reconstruction to heal and settle into position may be better. Your specialist team will give you an idea of how long this is likely to be.
Where both breasts are being reconstructed, the aim is to recreate breasts that match and are in proportion to the body shape.
There are usually different options available for breast reconstruction and your breast surgeon and breast care nurse will explain which one is likely to suit you best. It’s helpful if you can take some time to consider these options without feeling under pressure to make a decision. You may need a couple of discussions with your specialist team before you feel confident deciding what to do.