It can be devastating to learn that you have breast cancer and will need to have one or both breasts removed. Not only do you have to deal with treating the disease, but also with the loss of your breasts. Approximately 102,215 breast reconstruction surgeries were performed in 2014, an increase of 30 percent over the number performed in 2000, so it is a relatively common type of plastic surgery. However, deciding whether to have breast reconstruction surgery is a major decision that needs to be made while taking into consideration a number of factors:
1. Whether It's Possible
The first step in the breast reconstruction process is to speak with your doctor to determine whether it is a possibility in your case and whether it can be done right away or whether it will need to wait some time. Women who are very overweight, who smoke, or who have certain health problems are usually not good candidates for reconstruction, and those who have further cancer treatments to undergo after their mastectomy may be advised to wait for reconstruction until after these treatments are completed.
2. Potential Benefits
Women tend to feel that they look better and feel more self-confident if they have breast reconstruction. A 2011 study found that 90 percent of women were happy with their reconstructions and 85 percent were confident after the reconstruction, compared to only 77 percent of women feeling confident who didn't have the reconstructive surgery.
3. Type of Reconstruction
Once the decision is made, you'll need to figure out which type of reconstruction makes the most sense for you. Sometimes the procedure can be done using natural tissue flaps and tissue from other parts of the body, while in other cases saline or silicone implants make more sense. Natural tissue looks and feels more natural, but will require a more intensive and longer surgery, and some feeling may be lost in the area where the tissue is taken from. There may also be more scars and the recovery time will be longer. Both saline and silicone implants have a risk of rupturing and typically only last about 10 years before needing to be replaced, but silicone can feel more natural than saline.
Of course, the cost can't be left out of the decision. Those who have health insurance often have to pay some but not all of the cost of breast reconstruction, with the costs varying anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $12,000 or more, depending on the type of surgery and the type of insurance. Without insurance, this type of surgery tends to cost between $5,000 and $15,000 per breast when implants are used and between $25,000 and $50,000 per breast if the flap method is used.