If you’ve had a mastectomy because of breast cancer you may elect to have breast reconstruction surgery. Breast reconstruction surgery restores symmetry between the breasts by replacing skin, breast tissue, and the removed nipple. It can also restore any confidence that was lost during the trauma and treatment of breast cancer. When contemplating whether or not to have reconstructive surgery, it is important to know what types of surgeries there are and the recovery time and results of each.
What Are The Options For Breast Reconstruction?
The amount of reconstruction required will depend on the mastectomy and the width, size, and location of the removed tumor. You will be able to choose whether to use implants or your own tissue. The use of implants involves stretching the skin with a tissue expander and then inserting a silicone-gel or saline implant. The tissue expander is filled to the desired volume by adding saline once a week for a few session until your tissue has reached the desired size for the implant. Many women report that this expansion is painful but worth it. It will take an average of 6-8 visits to expand the tissue for the implant. The tissue flap procedure uses your own tissue to reconstruct the breast. The tissue is taken from the abdomen, back or thighs to create a mound which will reconstruct the breast. Nipple reconstruction is an out-patient procedure that is done with local anesthesia after the reconstruction is complete and has healed.
What Is The Recovery Time For These Procedures?
Breast reconstruction surgery ranges anywhere from one to six hours in length. When the surgery is complete, you will have discomfort for a few days. The nurses and physicians will give you pain medication as needed to manage this pain. While in the hospital, the nurses will assist you in moving your arms gently and will help you get in and out of bed. The day after surgery you will be expected to be able to sit in a chair and possibly to walk unassisted. During these first 2 days after surgery, you will have IV fluids as well as drains in the incision sites. The average hospital stay for implant surgery is 2 days. The flap procedure will require a longer hospital stay of 5 to 6 days.
Once you are discharged from the hospital, you will recover at home. Soreness, swelling, and bruising will take two or three weeks to heal. You will need to continue to have gauze or elastic bandages or a sports bra during your recovery. Most patients can return to normal activity in 6-8 weeks and numbness at the incision sites will improve over time.
In summary, the recovery time for breast reconstruction surgery is 6 to 8 weeks regardless of the type of reconstruction that you choose. The hospital stay for implants is shorter than for the tissue flap procedure. Other elements of the recovery including the time it takes to recover from the soreness, swelling, bruising, and the time to return to your normal activities are very similar. Your physician will be able to clarify other elements of your recovery and recommend the type of reconstruction that best suits your individual needs.
Take the Next Step
If you have been contemplating breast reconstruction surgery, the time is right for you to schedule a consultation for your plastic surgeon to develop a treatment plan that is customized to your individual needs. You can schedule a consultation with one of our physicians at Dermatology and Plastic Surgery of Arizona by calling the Tucson office at 520-207-3100 or the Sierra Vista location at 520-458-1787. You may also schedule an appointment by completing the form on this page.Our offices are conveniently located at 698 East Wetmore, Suite #310 in Tucson, Arizona and 150 South Coronado Drive Suite #110 in Sierra Vista, Arizona.