Is Breast Reduction Right for You?

The Right Procedure

There are two main types of breast reconstruction: reconstruction with implants, and reconstruction with your own tissue. Tissue can be borrowed from the abdomen (TRAM, DIEP), from the thighs (TUG) or even from the buttocks (GAP). These reconstructions involve taking the transplanted tissue with its blood supply, and either tunneling it to the breast area or microsurgically reattaching the blood vessels. These are excellent methods of reconstruction, particularly for women who have needed radiation after mastectomy.

At Banff Plastic Surgery, we focus primarily on reconstruction with tissue expanders and implants, as well as correction of breast asymmetries due to breast cancer treatment. Tissue expander reconstruction can be a great option for women who have not required radiation after mastectomy. The surgery involves placing an adjustable saline implant under the chest muscle, and gradually inflating it over a period of several months until it approximates the desired size. A second procedure is then planned, removing the temporary expander and replacing it with a longer lasting silicone gel implant. Balancing procedures can be done on the opposite breast at the same time (reduction, lift, etc) in order to bring the breasts into better symmetry.

Nipple reconstruction is usually done by creating a “bump” of skin on the reconstructed breast, then creating an areola with a tattoo.


The Right Patient

The right patient for breast reconstruction is motivated to proceed with this multi-step process, and has spent time considering the various types of reconstruction and their pros and cons. We can use our experience to help educate you about your options. It’s best to discuss your plans with your oncologist and family doctor so that we can collaborate with them to make sure you are healthy enough to have surgery in Banff.


The Right Reasons

Breast reconstruction is a personal decision. The loss of a breast after mastectomy can be physically and emotionally difficult. Our patients tell us that they get tired of wearing a prosthesis, which can be heavy, sweaty, or uncomfortable. They worry that the prosthesis will shift or fall out, and they don’t want to think about how to get dressed every morning. Many of our patients tell us that reconstruction feels like the final step in their breast cancer journey, allowing them to feel whole again.


The Right Time

Some women in larger centres are able to have reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy. We currently focus on treating women who were not able to have reconstruction at the time of mastectomy. The reconstructive process can begin as early as 3 months after mastectomy. Chemotherapy should be complete, and women who require radiation after mastectomy may want to consider tissue flap reconstruction rather than implants.

Reconstruction with a tissue expander requires a period of healing of 3-4 weeks, and women choosing this type of reconstruction should remember that this is a staged procedure, requiring at least 2 surgeries and sometimes more. Filling the tissue expander is not painful, but requires visits to the office every 2-3 weeks. We suggest 2-3 weeks off work for the first procedure and 2 weeks for the second.

Breast reconstruction can be an important final step in breast cancer care. At Banff Plastic Surgery, we’re honoured to have the chance to help our patients feel whole again.

Let us answer your questions

Educational Videos


Breast reconstruction can be an important part of breast cancer treatment for many women. Whether your breast cancer treatment involved lumpectomy or mastectomy, there are procedures we can offer that may help you feel whole again. It’s our goal to reconstruct a breast that not only looks good in a bra, but also looks like a real breast when you’re not wearing your clothes. Our patients love being able to get dressed in the morning without worrying about a prosthesis or hiding the difference between their breasts. We’re grateful to have the opportunity to help breast cancer patients in this way, and we look forward to seeing how we can help you.

Dr. MacLennan, plastic surgeon

Breast Reconstruction FAQs

I had my mastectomy years ago. Am I still a candidate for reconstruction?

There’s no time or age limit on reconstruction. While most women pursue breast reconstruction as soon as possible after their treatment, we are happy to see women who may have had breast cancer surgery years prior.

I had a lumpectomy and now my breasts have lost symmetry. Can you help?

Many women are able to have their breast cancers treated with lumpectomy/partial mastectomy/segmental removal. Most will also have radiation therapy. While these treatments preserve the breast and nipple in most cases, many women end up with distortion of the affected breast and asymmetry between the two breasts. While it can be difficult to restore exact symmetry after breast cancer surgery and radiation, it’s worth a consultation to see what can be done. Sometimes the affected breast can be reshaped, and often the opposite breast can be lifted or reduced to provide a better match. These “balancing” procedures are individualized and require a detailed consultation in order to make a custom plan.

Can fat grafting reconstruct my breast?

Fat grafting is often offered as a component of breast reconstruction. Some lumpectomy problems can be improved with scar release and fat grafting, while others may be severe and require more advanced reconstruction. Radiation can make lumpectomy reconstruction more challenging. Each problem is unique, so each requires an individualized approach.

Will Provincial Health cover reconstruction?

In most cases, reconstructive breast procedures will be covered by provincial health plans.