Breast reconstruction is an important option for every breast cancer survivor.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer often face a difficult physical and emotional journey. While surgeries, radiation and other treatment options can take a toll on a woman's body, the emotional worry about health and identity after a mastectomy can often be harder to bear. Today we are hearing from Candis Lovelace, MD, a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction. For breast cancer survivors, regaining their physical appearance through breast reconstruction can be an integral step in the healing process.

Is breast reconstruction an option for everyone?
Dr. Lovelace shared that most breast cancer survivors are candidates for surgery. In fact, your health insurance will cover your breast reconstruction. She encourages breast cancer patients to discuss breast reconstruction options with her physician as early as diagnosis. It should also be noted that breast reconstruction is still an option for women who have had a mastectomy many years prior.

When is breast reconstruction performed?
Breast reconstruction can happen immediately, even as early as the mastectomy surgery, or at a later date. Reconstruction circumstances are determined based on the breast cancer patient's treatment plan and the type of reconstruction required. For instance, radiation can affect the breast, and a patient will experience better results once treatment has been completed. Most reconstruction surgeries occur over a few stages and adjustments are made as healing occurs. Dr. Lovelace notes that it's the little changes and details that give a patient the best results.

Can breast reconstruction save the nipple?
Your breast surgeon will determine if you are a candidate for a nipple sparing mastectomy. Some very select patients are a candidate for this type of surgery, but the majority will require a mastectomy that removes the nipple areola complex as well. This type of surgery is currently a hot topic of research. Dr. Lovelace explained that there are a variety of ways to recreate a new nipple and areola for the new breast.

What should patients know about breast reconstruction?
Dr. Lovelace encourages every breast cancer patient to thoroughly research her options about breast reconstruction. She should discuss her diagnosis and its affect on potential reconstruction early in the process. Dr. Lovelace also encourages women to use reputable resources while researching, including the American Society of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Lovelace notes that while women may not have an exact match of her original breast after reconstruction, the results still allow women to feel like themselves in a bikini and in clothes. Breast cancer survivors deserve the chance to feel whole again after a difficult breast cancer journey.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We encourage every survivor to learn more about this type of surgery and to discuss it further with their physicians. If you would like a physician referral at North Hills Hospital, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.