“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.”
Is Breast Reconstruction Right for You?
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.
Because our breast reconstruction is done at the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff, we do not have the equipment necessary to offer microsurgical reconstruction. 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 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.
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 worry 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.
Some women in larger cities and towns 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. Reconstruction can be done 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 does require 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.