The following information appeared in MedicineNet.com (www.medicinenet.com) explaining the advantages, challenges and follow up care when choosing one’s own tissue for breast reconstruction.
Using one’s own tissue and muscle in reconstruction results in a more natural looking breast that is not vulnerable to the problems that sometimes occur with implants. The shape, feel and contour of a breast reconstructed from a woman’s own tissue more closely resemble the characteristics of a natural breast.
Transferring tissue from the abdomen also results in tightening of the stomach resembling a tummy tuck.
Reconstruction using Flap surgery is more involved than implant surgery.
And, like all major surgical procedures, it carries the risk of complications, such as bleeding, infection or poor healing. However, these complications, should they occur, can be treated at the hospital.
Flap procedures also leave additional scars on the abdomen, back or buttocks and require a longer hospital stay than implant surgery; on average five to six days versus one or two days for implant recipients. Generally, the additional scars resulting from the flap procedure are well concealed.
Most women return to normal activities within six weeks after breast reconstruction surgery.
It may be several weeks before resuming strenuous exercise. There will be soreness, swelling and bruising for two to three weeks. It may be necessary to apply medications to the suture area or change bandages at home. The plastic surgeon will advise about showering, bathing and wound care.
Mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery will leave areas of numbness where the surgery was performed. Instead of feeling pain where the tissue was taken, a patient may feel numbness and tightness. The same is true of the reconstruction site. In time, some feeling may return in the breasts. Most scars will fade over time.
The shape of a reconstructed breast will gradually improve over the months following the reconstruction.
Regular checkups will be needed at first. If a temporary expander is implanted, it will be expanded with saline on average once a week until the desired size is obtained (usually within six to ten office visits).
After breast reconstruction, it is important to continue to breast exams every month and continue to have regular screening examinations, such as an annual mammogram.
Breast reconstruction has no bearing on cancer recurrence or surveillance, and generally does not interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. A recurrence can still be treated by any of the standard treatment methods, which include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. In addition, reconstruction rarely, if at all, hides or obscures a local recurrence.