Following a mastectomy, breast reconstruction may help a woman recovering from breast cancer surgery feel better about her appearance. Some women say it helps them feel better about their bodies, more alive, feminine, and sexual—and happier about life.
With advances in medicine and technology, plastic surgeons can now use an innovative microsurgical procedure called DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator) flap breast reconstruction to rebuild a woman’s breast without the use of implants. In fact, plastic surgeons like Dr. Helena Guarda of Plastic Surgery Specialists of Virginia, Inc., have been performing this procedure for over ten years at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center. Tissue flap surgery allows a physician to rebuild the shape of a woman’s breast using fat and skin from the lower belly area, resulting in a “tummy tuck” effect.
Because this miscroscope procedure does not disturb muscles in the abdomen or lower stomach area, women can avoid later stomach weakness.
Compared to breast reconstruction with implants, tissue flap procedures like DIEP require a longer surgery and recovery time, but the result of the surgery is a more natural-looking breast. Following the procedure, women are typically able to return to their normal routine in 3 to 6 weeks. Most women need to avoid strenuous activity for several weeks.
If you are considering a breast reconstruction surgery during your treatment, be sure to discuss the pros and cons of having it at the same time as mastectomy and the pros and cons of waiting until later. Some women want to get started with reconstruction right away. Others may feel overwhelmed by a cancer diagnosis, so they put off the decision to have reconstruction until they feel ready to deal with it. If you will need to have radiation therapy after mastectomy for breast cancer, your cancer specialist or surgeon may want you to wait and have reconstruction after your treatment. Radiation can affect the success of tissue flap surgery. Be sure you understand your options.