A mastectomy after breast cancer is a lifesaving surgical procedure. The benefits are well-known, but the emotional and personal repercussions are significant. Implant reconstruction gives women the opportunity to restore the body to the womanly appearance it had prior to breast cancer that required a mastectomy. This surgery can be performed several different ways, including the use of the woman’s own natural tissue, but one of the more common surgical techniques breast reconstruction with implants.
Options for Breast Reconstruction with Implants: Silicone or Saline?
The use of breast implants is an option many women choose to restore breasts after a mastectomy. This procedure can be performed by placing either saline or silicone implants. Saline implants are filled with sterile saltwater, and are known to be safe. Silicone gel implants have a more natural feel than saline, although the latest generation of saline implants are far superior in how they feel than those manufactured in the past. Your own fat tissue may also be used in conjunction with the implant for an even more natural-looking and feeling outcome.
Silicone gel implant technology has also advanced, with “gummy bear” or “form stable” implants that are firmer and less likely to lead to a rupture, which will surgery to resolve. Concerns about silicone and the body have not been proven to be true, and silicone implants not believed to pose a health danger. The silicone implants in use are all FDA-approved as being safe for patients.
Types of Surgical Procedures for Implant Reconstruction
Depending upon the situation, there may be one of two types of implant breast reconstruction surgeries used.
- One-Stage Breast Reconstruction: For some women, the breast reconstruction surgery can occur in the same surgery, immediately after the mastectomy is complete. Once the breast tissue is removed, the implant is placed, typically beneath the chest muscles. To hold the implant in place, certain types of mesh or graft material can be placed to hold the implant in the correct position.
- Two-Stage Reconstruction: For some women, it is not possible to have a one-stage reconstruction, as the patient will require more cancer treatment before the reconstruction can be performed. In these cases, a tissue expander is placed in the body after the mastectomy is completed to prepare the chest wall for the implant to be placed later. The expander functions like a balloon that is slowly filled to the size the woman wants so that the skin can stretch to accommodate the implant, either with a saltwater solution or with carbon dioxide gas.
After the skin has stretched sufficiently to accommodate the implant, during surgery the expander is removed and the implant, either saline or silicone, placed. For some breast reconstruction surgeries, natural tissue harvested from the body may needed for the breast reconstruction process. A “flap” procedure involves harvesting tissue from another part of the body (typically tummy or back) to provide structure and to hold implants in the correct position, or to provide added skin coverage. Synthetic mesh or “acellular matrix” products are an option. These are medical products created from human or animal skin that has been treated to remove cells that could lead to rejection or other complication.
Breast Reconstruction and Areola Reconstruction
Dr. Pablo Prichard is a premier breast reconstruction surgeon who has the ability to recreate beautiful breasts that appear natural, including the restoring the nipple area. When creating the nipple, he goes above and beyond in his procedures, first adding tissue to add depth, and adding tiny details to mimic natural areola tissue, and finishing the process with 3D tattooing to give the new nipple a remarkably natural appearance.
Your Body, Your Life.
You are the only person who fully understands the importance of restoring your breasts after a mastectomy. Dr. Prichard has worked with many breast cancer survivors, helping them regain the confidence and self-esteem they lost after one or both breasts were removed. We invite you to speak with us about what you envision for your new breasts, and let us explain the various surgical options open to you. Our entire team of professionals is warm, compassionate, and caring, and we are proud to be of service to the community of women who have survived breast cancer.