Oftentimes, reconstruction can begin at the same time as your mastectomy. This most commonly occurs in institutions which offer close coordination between breast cancer surgeons and breast reconstruction surgeons, such as ours. On the same day, both surgical teams will be involved in your surgery in order to perform the necessary breast cancer surgery followed by first stage reconstruction. Most reconstructive surgeries can be done this way, but may require additional surgeries later after you have healed to complete the reconstruction process.
Immediate reconstruction offers a psychological benefit, as patients will wake up after their breast cancer surgery with volume and a shape similar to normal appearing breasts.
For patients who are higher risk for complications after reconstruction, or for patients whose desired breast surgeon does not work directly with a plastic surgeon, staged immediate reconstruction is a good option for optimizing reconstruction outcomes and minimizing risk. In this approach, breast cancer surgery is performed with input from the plastic surgeon, but does not require the plastic surgeon’s presence on the day of surgery. Two to three weeks later, reconstruction is planned with the plastic surgeon as a separate procedure. This increases surgeon flexibility; even patients who do not have an accessible plastic surgeon at the time of their mastectomy or breast conservation surgery can pursue reconstruction. It also reduces risk for those who desire reconstruction but are likely to have complications.
Some patients prefer to wait on reconstruction until they have completed all therapies, or may decide later, many years later, to pursue reconstruction after mastectomy. There are some limitations in delayed reconstruction, but it is still possible. No matter how long after your breast cancer surgery, reconstruction is always an option.