Breast reconstruction can be performed at the time of the mastectomy or at a later date. Most women who want to have breast reconstruction will choose to have it done as an immediate procedure at the time of their mastectomy. Immediate breast reconstruction can be performed with implants or your natural tissue. In general, the aesthetic outcomes are best with immediate breast reconstruction.
Delayed breast reconstruction may be performed weeks, months, or even years after a mastectomy. In delayed reconstruction the breast skin surface, as well as, the breast volume need to be restored. This is in contrast to immediate breast reconstruction, where much of the native breast skin is preserved and only the breast volume needs to be restored. For this reason, delayed breast reconstruction presents a unique challenge but in most cases can be performed successfully.
There are several reasons to have delayed breast reconstruction. In some women the cancer stage at the time of diagnosis precludes immediate breast reconstruction. Other women delay reconstruction until their breast cancer treatment is completed. Others may have started immediate breast reconstruction but were unable to finish because of complications related to infection or wound healing difficulties.
In many cases delayed breast reconstruction requires the transfer of natural tissue to the breast to replace both missing skin and breast volume; however, in some women the delayed breast reconstruction can be performed with tissue expanders and implants alone.
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Deciding Between Immediate and Delayed Reconstruction