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What Is Breast Reconstruction?

Breast reconstruction is a process that enables restoring the breasts of patients who have had their breasts surgically removed. To prevent the further spread of cancer or eliminate the risk of cancer, individuals undergo a mastectomy (complete removal of breasts) or a lumpectomy (removal of the cancerous tissue in the breasts) in breast cancer. Breast reconstruction is the surgery to reconstruct breasts after mastectomy or lumpectomy. 

Breast Reconstruction Procedure

Breast reconstruction is possible immediately following breast cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction). Or it can be performed a few months or even years later (delayed reconstruction). In some cases, only one breast needs reconstruction, while surgery for both breasts may be necessary in other cases. It can even require multiple surgeries across several phases.

In some instances, the doctors might have to operate on the unaffected breast to match the size and shape of both breasts. There are two types of breast reconstruction surgery. Breast reconstruction using implants can be done with the help of saline or silicone implants. Autologous reconstruction is when autologous tissue from your body is used, where the tissue is generally taken from the lower abdomen or thigh. 

Common Questions Patients Ask 

  1. Can breast cancer recur after breast reconstruction?

Breast cancer can recur in some cases after breast reconstruction. In the case of lumpectomy or mastectomy, the cancerous cells occur in the remaining tissue. In the case of breast reconstruction, the microenvironment may aid the formation of new cancer cells. 

  1. What are the possible risks involved in breast reconstruction?

There is always a possibility of graft rejection in the breast, a risk factor. There is also a high chance of infection when a new graft is introduced, which may create complications. There is an increased risk of fluid buildup in the breasts, which can cause swelling and pain in the breasts. 

  1. How does breast reconstruction help me?

Following a lumpectomy or mastectomy for breast cancer, breast reconstruction is a procedure that can restore the form, symmetry, and size of one or both breasts. It can help restore the patient’s confidence and help the patient recover physically and emotionally. It can also aid in boosting self-confidence and remove the necessity for a prosthetic.

  1. Is autologous reconstruction safer than implants?

Both reconstructions are equally effective. An autologous reconstruction will use the flap (part of skin and fat) from another body part, such as the thighs or abdomen, to reconstruct the breasts. Whereas the implant reconstruction will use silicone and saline implants for the process. The reconstruction’s safety and efficacy can vary in each patient’s case. 

  1. Which patients are most eligible for breast reconstruction? 

Patients who have undergone mastectomy can have breast reconstruction. They can opt for an immediate reconstruction, which can happen immediately after the mastectomy. There is also an option for delayed reconstruction in which the patient can have reconstruction months or even years later.

Treatments suggested by experts

Unlike the popular misconception, breast reconstruction neither decreases nor increases the possibility of cancer recurrence. However, one must not ignore the fact that there is always a possibility of cancer recurrence in patients in remission. This possibility of recurrence can be minimized with the help of lifestyle changes, consuming appropriate supplements and regular follow-up consultations. The lifestyle changes may include proper diet and supplements to avoid inflammation and regular follow-up to check for cancer recurrence. The body image issues women commonly face with breast cancer can also be managed with the help of an expert. 

Snippets from a Cancer Survivor

Rach DiMare noticed a lump on her breast during her honeymoon. She was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer two months before her 28th birthday. 

She says, “The diagnosis was shocking, but I took courage because it was early enough to beat. The whole thing seemed surreal. I kept thinking in the back of my mind; they must have messed up my results with someone else. I didn’t realize how much pain I would be in after surgery. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom alone or walk. I did neoadjuvant chemotherapy, chemo before surgery, and bilateral mastectomy. After which, I also underwent breast reconstruction. It looked great, but it took me a long time to adjust to the changes. People commented, “At least you got a free boob job.”  Having a mastectomy can be very challenging, both physically and emotionally, and it took me months to recover from it. Getting back into your life with good feelings as soon as possible is more important than how you look. You deserve it!”

RachDi Mare made sure that she went through all the available resources to learn more about her condition and the various treatment options. She also talks about how it is essential to know your body and seek medical help when necessary instead of postponing it. 

ZenOnco.io’s Role in Breast Reconstruction 

Patients often go through various negative emotions during breast cancer and reconstruction. It is essential to consult an expert to help them deal with the wide range of emotions they go through. As there is a chance of recurrence, it is also important to curb any such growth of cancer cells through appropriate supplements. 

Zen Emotional Counselling Program 

ZenOnco.io offers an emotional counseling program that can help regulate the various emotions that cancer patients go through. Breast reconstruction often puts women through an emotional rollercoaster as they might feel that their femininity has been stripped. They might be concerned about their appearance as a woman in society. Women often feel under-confident as an essential part of their body is affected. This can put them through immense anxiety and mood swings. Mind-body wellness and emotional counseling can help patients relax both mentally and physically. This can, in turn, help reduce the treatment toxicity and improve general well-being and quality of life. The Zen Emotional Counselling Program has certified mind-body medicine experts who guide you through various emotions.

Ask an Expert 

Most people find the entire process of reconstruction challenging. They may also have doubts and queries about maintaining their physical and emotional health after the process. We at ZenOnco.io have cancer experts available round the clock to resolve all your cancer-related queries and guide you through the treatment with our feature “Ask an Expert.” We provide scientific answers to all cancer-related queries within one hour. 

Emotional wellness tips for Breast Reconstruction 

  • Focus on the positive aspect of it; defeating cancer is a huge milestone. 
  • Interacting with other breast cancer survivors can help you realize that you are not alone. 
  • Take upon healthy habits such as appropriate diet and physical exercise, which will help you deal with the emotions. 
  • Accepting and embracing your body is essential to cope with surgery
  • Try wearing loose clothes or garments that are specifically made for breast cancer patients
  • Tell yourself that you are a warrior and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Take pride in your battle. 

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