There are many different routes to choose from when having a double mastectomy. I chose to meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss my options.
The goal of breast reconstruction is to reform or reshape one or both breasts after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. After speaking with my breast surgeon I knew reconstruction was the best option for me, though there are a lot of women that choose to go completely flat.
There are many reasons why someone might prefer to decline reconstruction. It is more surgery — sometimes a lot more depending on the type — and there are always risks with any surgery. Some women aren’t happy with the idea of moving around muscles or fat or having something artificial placed in their bodies as happens with implants. Some women who are serious athletes or musicians worry even more about possibly damaging their range of motion or strength. Some women just don’t like the idea of doing more than is necessary for their cancer health.
For me, I wasn’t quite ready mentally for the idea of having a flat chest. Because of this I had to meet with a plastic surgeon to talk about all of my reconstruction options. And believe me when I tell you there are a lot of them.
There are two main techniques for reconstructing your breast:
- Implant reconstruction: Inserting an implant that’s filled with saline (salt water) or silicone gel.
- Autologous or “flap” reconstruction: Using tissue transplanted from another part of your body (such as your belly, thigh, or back). Autologous reconstruction also may include an implant.
You also can choose whether or not to reconstruct your nipple. (In some cases, nipple-sparing mastectomy is possible, which means that your own nipple and the surrounding breast skin are preserved.)
My surgeon decided with my body type and history, the best option for me would be expanders right out of surgery and three months later I would have an exchange surgery where I would get the final implants.
Tissue expansion is a process that stretches your remaining chest skin and soft tissues to make room for the breast implant.
After the tissue is adequately expanded, your surgeon performs a second surgery to remove the tissue expander and replace it with a permanent implant, which is placed in the same place as the tissue expander.
A breast implant is a round or teardrop-shaped silicone shell filled with salt water (saline) or silicone gel.
The plastic surgeon places the implant either behind or in front of the muscle in your chest (pectoral muscle). Implants that are put in front of the muscle are held in place using a special tissue called acellular dermal matrix. Over time, your body replaces this tissue with collagen.
Want to read more about breast reconstruction with implants? Head over to Mayoclinic.org for more information.
This is just part of my story and how my bilateral mastectomy came to be on January 8th, 2020. I will continue to update the site as I put the content together.