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Breast reconstruction

After a mastectomy or an injury, breast reconstruction surgery can restore your confidence, and make you feel younger and healthier. 

What is breast reconstruction surgery?

Breast reconstruction is a procedure to restore the shape, size and appearance of the breast after a mastectomy or injury. This surgery is common for breast cancer survivors, and helps women regain their figures and confidence. 

Sometimes breast reconstruction surgery can be completed at the same time as mastectomy surgery. Other patients will need to wait to have reconstructive surgery. Breast reconstruction surgery is not possible for every woman who has had a mastectomy. Dr. Appel will discuss your specific case and inform you of your options.

What does breast reconstruction surgery involve?

Breast reconstruction surgery might include using donor muscle, fat and/or skin from your abdomen to reconstruct the breast. In some cases, if enough tissue remains on the chest wall, a more traditional implant can be used. Often, a tissue expander is used to stretch the skin so it can accommodate the implant. Skin grafting and other techniques can be used to reconstruct the nipple and areola.

Depending on the extent and length of the surgery, breast reconstruction can be either an inpatient or outpatient procedure. 

While a reconstructed breast will not be identical to the breast it replaces, a breast lift, breast reduction or breast augmentation performed on the existing breast can make it and the other breast match as much as possible.

Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is covered by insurance, as is surgery on the other breast to restore symmetry. It is your right after a mastectomy to have surgery to restore your breasts and breast symmetry.

What to expect after breast reconstruction

Immediately after breast reconstruction surgery, you might be drowsy from anesthesia. Bandages will cover the incisions, and an elastic bandage or supportive bra might be used to support and protect the breast while it heals. A small tube might be inserted temporarily under the skin to remove excess fluid and reduce swelling. In time, swelling will go down and scars will fade.

You might need up to a week of recovery time before returning to work. You will not be able to lift anything immediately after surgery. You will need to avoid strenuous activity for at least four to six weeks after your surgery.

The results of breast reconstruction are long-lasting, and leave most patients feeling much more "whole" after a mastectomy.

Breast reconstruction side effects and risks

The risks of breast reconstruction surgery are similar to other surgeries, and most are related to the possibility of infections, bleeding or unfavorable scarring. Dr. Appel makes every effort to reduce these risks. Before your surgery, you will have a chance to discuss any risks you might encounter.

The words of a patient

I am Laura Renegar, and I am a triple negative/BRCA2 positive breast cancer survivor. When I learned after my lumpectomy I would need chemotherapy, I was in shock. Then when I was told I would need a bilateral mastectomy, I was scared. I met Dr. Appel and I immediately felt at ease. I was still scared of what he was saying about my surgery, but I trusted him. During reconstruction Dr. Appel was always very “in tune” to how I was feeling. I remember the day I realized that he is the most intuitive man that I have ever met. I was sitting on his examining table and he asked how I was. I smiled and nodded and said “good” - although inside I was not so good. He looked at me again and said, “How are you really?” It was then that I realized how much he was paying attention to all of me: my voice, my body language and my all-around state of being. It was then that I realized I could tell him anything and not only would he listen, he understood and he did something about it!

I have many friends in the breast cancer community and the ones that go to Dr. Appel are extremely happy with him and his staff. My original surgery was in 2011 and I recently had another procedure done and I have to say Dr. Appel is still the most intuitive doctor I have ever met. Breast cancer is hard. Chemotherapy is hard. But having Dr. Appel as my breast reconstruction plastic surgeon made the entire process a lot easier! If you are considering breast reconstruction Dr. Appel comes highly recommended from a lot of survivors here in the city of Charlotte, including me!

- Laura Renegar, Breast Cancer Survivor

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