Like other surgical procedures, breast reconstruction comes with risks and benefits patients may want to consider and discuss with their doctors. Implants after a mastectomy can restore the appearance of the breasts in a patient with cancer or a patient who chose a prophylactic mastectomy to prevent the occurrence of breast cancer. This may provide clear benefits for emotional health. Implants can also create a risk of infection, rupture, scarring, and other complications, some of which may be costly to treat.
When patients prepare for mastectomy, they should discuss breast reconstruction before the surgery. Surgeons may plan the procedure differently if they know the patient plans to get implants after a mastectomy, and in some cases it may be possible to perform an immediate breast reconstruction during the mastectomy surgery. This is more commonly an option with women who seek prophylactic mastectomies. Patients in treatment for cancer may need to wait for implants to see how they respond to treatment.
Implants after a mastectomy are more likely to be successful if the patient receives a skin-sparing procedure and the surgeon plans the mastectomy scars carefully. Patients who need a delayed breast reconstruction should be aware that the look and feel of the chest after the initial mastectomy surgery may be unpleasant. Once the reconstruction takes place, loose skin and other issues should be resolved, but there can be an awkward period while the patient waits for surgery.
No matter what kind of implants a patient gets, implants can leak or rupture, may cause infections, and could lead to a condition called capsular contracture. All of these issues may necessitate a follow-up surgery to correct the problem. Patients considering implants after a mastectomy may want to think about these risks. It can help to work with a very experienced surgeon. Patients can ask to see examples of the surgeon's work, and sometimes a breast cancer support group can provide contact information for people willing to talk about their breast reconstructions.
While considering implants after a mastectomy, it can be helpful to interact with patients who have had breast reconstruction. They can talk about their satisfaction levels and may be willing to provide images and descriptions of how their breasts look and feel. Patients should be aware that their new breasts may lack sensation and will look different; awareness of this surgical outcome can help patients prepare more effectively and may reduce the risk of disappointment about reconstructed breasts.