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What Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery?

Breast reconstruction surgery is a procedure/s to rebuild your breasts after they've been removed (usually from cancer). Because of advances in breast reconstruction surgery, many women undergoing breast removal choose to have their breast(s) rebuilt.

Medical, surgical, and radiation therapy treatments for breast cancer have increased the number of breast-sparing procedures available. But some breast cancer patients may still need a mastectomy (removal of the breast(s)). Some women need to have their breasts removed because of other diseases.

Considering Reconstructive Breast Surgery?

The decision to have reconstructive breast surgery is a very personal one. It depends a lot on how you think you will feel after a mastectomy. If you might feel uncomfortable with a flat chest or wearing a false breast (called a prosthesis), you may want to consider reconstructive surgery. Or you may choose not to have any extra surgery.

Breast reconstruction often takes place in stages, and many women will need more than one operation to complete the process.

Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy or Other Surgery

Meet Jay Agarwal, MD, breast reconstruction surgeon. Learn about the breast reconstruction process at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the mulitple specialists who will care for you.

How Long Does It Take to Get Breast Reconstruction?

Timeline for Reconstruction Process

Meet With a Plastic Surgeon

Before your mastectomy procedure, we recommend that you meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss the reconstruction process and breast reconstruction recovery. Doing this will give you and your surgeon the most flexibility possible to make decisions about your reconstructive options.

With reconstructive surgery, you can choose to have stage one of the process started right at the time of your mastectomy or you can wait until later. This decision is something your plastic surgeon can help you make.*

Surgical Procedure

You breast surgeon will perform your double or single mastectomy. Your surgeon will place drains at the time of surgery. You may also begin stage one of the reconstruction process by having a tissue expander placed.

Stage One

A tissue expander is placed under your chest muscle during a surgical procedure.

A few weeks after surgery, when you have had time to heal, we will begin to fill the tissue expander with more fluid. The tissue expander will stretch your skin and muscle to help your body get ready for stage two of the reconstructive process.

We will generally see you in the clinic every one to two weeks until the expansion process is complete.

Stage Two

You will discuss implant versus tissue-based reconstructive options with your plastic surgeon.

In patients who have a one-sided mastectomy (only one breast removed), surgeons will usually perform procedures on the other (opposite) breast during the second stage of reconstruction.

Your surgeon will perform surgery to make sure both of your breasts look symmetrical and even.

Additional Procedures

After stage two of the reconstructive process is complete, you may consider other procedures, such as nipple reconstruction.

Total Timeline

Breast Reconstruction for Mastectomy Patients

The process will take three to four months if your wounds are healing normally and if you don't need any other cancer treatments.

Breast Reconstruction for Chemotherapy Patients

The reconstruction process often takes six or more months for patients who need chemotherapy after mastectomy. Patients need one to two months to recover from chemotherapy before undergoing any additional surgery.

Breast Reconstruction for Radiation Patients

The reconstruction process can take six to 12 months for patients who need radiation therapy. Patients need three months to recover after their last radiation treatment before having additional surgery.

The patient and surgeon must also plan final reconstruction by thinking about the long-term effects of radiation on the skin and underlying tissue.

*This timeline may differ based on individual patient circumstances and recovery times.

Reconstructive Breast Surgery Doctors Near You

Recovering from Breast Reconstruction

For a smooth recovery, you must follow your plastic surgeon's aftercare instructions. Learn what you can expect as your body heals after your breast reconstruction.

Learn About the Recovery Process

Breast Implants and the Risk of ALCL

Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified a possible association between textured breast implants and development of a rare form of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

The majority of the data suggests the cancer risk is associated with breast implants that have textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces. The risk is low and thus far only a small percentage of patients with textured implants have been found to have ALCL in the United States. Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution the FDA has recalled a specific brand of textured implants.

The Division of Plastic Surgery at U of U Health has stopped using all brands of textured implants in light of the recent concern of developing ALCL. Please note that the recall of these implants does not mean that the implants need to be removed. If you have concerns or questions regarding the recall please refer to the FDA website or speak with your doctor.

For More Information About the FDA's Ongoing Status on Breast Implants and ALCL

Hear From Our Patients

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Terri Jones had a plan. “When it got to the idea of reconstructive surgery, all I knew is that I didn’t want anything foreign in my body,” Jones said. “I didn’t want implants and I thought that meant I wouldn’t have reconstruction at all.” After speaking to a friend who had breast cancer, Jones learned there are many more options when it comes to breast reconstruction than she realized. This meant she could make a choice right for her.

Hear From Our Specialists