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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of breast reconstruction surgery

Breast reconstruction is an operation that restores shape to your breast after a mastectomy. The aim is to match the remaining breast as closely as possible. This is done by creating a breast mound using an implant, your own tissues or a combination of both.

Every effort is made to achieve the best possible breast reconstruction but results from this type of surgery vary. Breast reconstruction will result in you having a breast mound that will best resemble your natural breast when you're dressed. But the reconstructed breast will be scarred and have no sensation or nipple. It may appear a different size and shape when you're undressed.

Surgery to your other breast can make your breasts more even and a nipple reconstruction may be an option for the future.

The breast reconstruction operation

Breast reconstruction is a major operation, and some women need more than one operation. Some women choose not to have breast reconstruction and are content to wear an external breast form (a prosthesis) in their bra, while others aren't. The aim is to find the solution that suits you best.

Breast reconstruction may be done at the same time as the mastectomy (immediate reconstruction), or some time after the mastectomy (delayed reconstruction). You'll need to discuss the timing of reconstruction with your surgeon to work out what is best for you.

Smokers who have breast reconstruction surgery do not heal as well. Your surgeon will strongly encourage you to stop smoking and may not be prepared to operate until you do. If you need help to quit smoking, use the resources on How to become smokefree.

On the next page: Risks & complications of breast reconstruction surgery

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Canterbury DHB Plastic Surgery Department. Last reviewed November 2020.

Page reference: 553034

Review key: HIBRC-85838