Breast Reconstruction Overview
Reconstruction of the breast following mastectomy is an integral part of the treatment of breast cancer. Breast reconstruction can happen at the time of mastectomy, or at a later date as a separate operation. Many factors contribute to the timing of breast reconstruction including the patient’s desires, the type and size of the tumor, and the potential need for post-operative radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Goals of breast reconstruction are to create an aesthetic breast mound, to achieve a normal and symmetric silhouette, and to limit patient morbidity. Breast reconstruction can be divided into three categories: implants with or without tissue expansion, autologous tissue (Flap), and a combination of implants and autologous tissue. Dr. Levine spent an additional of year of formal training specializing in flap reconstruction.
Nipple-Areolar Complex Reconstruction
Reconstruction of the nipple-areolar complex is an important component of complete breast reconstruction. Effective reconstruction of the nipple area has been shown to have a major psychological benefit to the patient when compared to those without nipple areolar complex reconstruction. Most methods of mastectomy remove the nipple-areolar complex along with the breast tissue. The resulting initial reconstruction is without a nipple. Several months later, the patient may undergo nipple reconstruction with local flaps, grafts, or a combination of the two. Tattooing of the nipple and areola can later be performed, completing the reconstruction of the nipple-areolar complex.
Although most forms of mastectomy remove the nipple-areolar complex, the nipple-sparing mastectomy, removes the breast tissue but spares the nipple and areola. A discussion with the surgical oncologist will determine whether the patient is a candidate for this type of procedure.