Breast cancer remains the most prevalent type of cancer malignancy among women, as it affects 29% of the female population in Singapore and 25% worldwide. While the numbers do not paint a good picture, there are two reasons to remain optimistic – first, the condition is highly treatable thanks to innovative techniques in medicine and surgery, and second, auxiliary treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and reconstruction are much easier to access now than ever.
If you are looking for the best service and treatments related to breast cancer management, Allure Plastic Surgery (https://www.allureplasticsurgery.sg/breast-reconstruction-singapore/) should be on the top of the list. Allure is known for its commitment to provide better aesthetic and functional outcomes for those who suffer the psychological trauma of losing the breast to cancer. Dr. Samuel Ho and his dedicated staff at Allure Plastic Surgery can help women improve their appearance and self-esteem after a mastectomy through breast reconstruction surgery.
The process of reconstruction may be performed immediately after breast cancer surgery, or even months or years later, depending on the patient’s preference. The decision to undergo breast reconstruction, after all, is a very personal one. Some women choose to forego breast reconstruction. However, over the past decade, there is an increase in the number of patients who opt for breast reconstruction surgery due to a variety of reasons: widespread awareness, inclusion of the procedure in certain insurance plans, higher success rates, and the acknowledgement of the fact that being able to retain the breast/s after cancer treatment contributes to the physical and emotional well-being of a patient.
To learn more about breast reconstruction surgery, this article will tackle the following:
- Breast reconstruction surgery defined
- How breast reconstruction is performed
- Post-operative care and recovery process
Breast reconstruction surgery defined
The aim of a breast reconstruction surgery is to restore the breast’s shape and size after it has been removed via mastectomy, or cancer surgery. The breast can be replaced with either implants or the patient’s own skin, fat, and muscle from another body part. It is important to note, however, that in some cases, multiple surgeries split in several stages are necessary to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Depending on the patient’s breast shape, the surgeon may advise surgery – can be in the form of breast augmentation, breast reduction, or breast lift – to the normal breast in order to match the volume and shape of the reconstructed side. If necessary, the surgeon may also reconstruct a new nipple and/or tattoo a new areola as part of breast reconstruction.
How breast reconstruction is performed
Breast reconstruction can be implant-based or tissue-based. Implant-based reconstruction is usually done around the same time as the mastectomy so that the patient will not have to undergo a second surgery. The surgeon may place the saline or silicone implants under or above the chest muscle, and sometimes, the implant may be used together with acellular dermal matrix (ADM), or an additional layer of skin substitute made from animal or human materials. The purpose of the ADM is to provide extra support to the implant.
Tissue-based reconstruction uses tissue from the patient’s back, thighs, buttocks, or abdominal lining. This is commonly used for patients in their 50s or older because as most women age (especially after pregnancy), they develop extra skin and fat in certain areas of the body, and this extra layer of tissue is perfect for the construction of a breast mound. A piece of flesh that contains skin, muscle, or fat from another body part and transferred to the chest to reconstruct the chest is called an autologous tissue flap. Flaps can be transferred with the blood vessels still intact (pedicled flap) or detached from its blood supply (free flap).
The doctor may also combine implants and flap when the latter cannot provide adequate volume to match the size of the normal breast.
When it comes to the question of which is better than the other – implants or flaps – the answer depends on different factors, which include the patient’s need for radiation therapy, whether the breast reconstruction surgery will be performed at the same time as the mastectomy, and whether reconstruction using the patient’s own tissue is feasible (sometimes not for other patients). Then there is also the matter of whether the patient will be comfortable with an implant.
Post-operative care and recovery process
Post-operative care is as important as the breast reconstruction surgery itself – that is a fact. The doctor will apply bandages and/or dressings over the incisions and small drains (tubes) will be placed around the treated area to prevent excess fluid and blood from pooling. Mild swelling and discomfort are to be expected, and these can be alleviated using pain medication. Antibiotics will also be prescribed to avoid infection. The patient will be required to wear a support bra to minimize swelling and help support the reconstructed breast during the recovery period.
Patients who opted for implants can expect a quick recovery – they will be discharged and allowed to go home within a few days of surgery. On the other hand, patients who had to undergo flap-based reconstruction may have to stay in the hospital for at least a week as the doctor will need to monitor the condition of the reconstructed breast.
The service of a physiotherapist will be available during the recovery period. They will teach the patient conditioning exercises for the arm, shoulder, and trunk, to help regain strength in the affected areas. It can take up to a month or two before the patient is able to perform strenuous activities.
And finally, a lot have been wondering if the breasts will be normal after the surgery. There will be some loss of sensation due to nerve damage but yes, you should still be able to feel the pressure applied to the breast.
Long term impact
The effects of breast reconstruction surgery will last a lifetime if you opt to use your own tissue. There is little to zero maintenance needed as the new breast should eventually look the same as the natural breast. Implants usually last 20 years and will not change drastically unless complications (leakage, hardening, or deformation) occur.
Allure Plastic Surgery
435 Orchard Road
#22-04 Penthouse Floor Wisma Atria
Phone: + 65 6734 9988
Whatsapp: + 65 9623 7836