Deciding about breast reconstruction

There are a number of things that can affect your decision about whether to have a breast reconstruction and your options for breast reconstruction

sb10069797a-001.gifAs with all types of surgery, having a breast reconstruction has its pros and cons.

Breast reconstruction can be an emotionally rewarding experience for women after a mastectomy. Studies have shown that breast reconstruction can help to improve body image and self esteem and enhance quality of life. Women have reported several benefits of undergoing breast reconstruction, including feeling comfortable and ‘whole’, decreased psychological distress and thinking less about breast cancer.

"I did not realise how much my breasts meant to me, but having one removed made me feel like an alien, not in the slightest attractive or feminine. Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror I was horrified at the huge scar where my breasts used to be. Reconstruction has restored my sexuality. I feel totally womanly and I am really comfortable in my own body which is reflected in every aspect of my life."

Disadvantages of breast reconstruction may include the need to have lengthy or multiple operations, a longer stay in hospital than mastectomy surgery alone and ongoing, sometimes long-term, side effects of surgery.

Most women who have breast reconstruction say that the physical and emotional benefits of recovery outweigh the practical limitations, with the end result that they feel ‘whole’.

"I couldn't fathom myself waking and not having a breast.  I've had big breasts all my life. I've always been a double D. I've always had a cleavage."

It is important to have reliable information about breast reconstruction so that you can make decisions that are right for you. Take as much time as you need to get information and think it through. Talk to your healthcare professionals and ask as many questions as you need to before making a final decision.

You may need to make a number of decisions throughout the breast reconstruction experience. This will involve weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Breast reconstruction is a very individual experience and different options work best for different women.

"I considered reconstruction and talked about it with my partner. I still have not ruled it out but somehow in ten years I have not found the time to go through with another major operation and recovery period. I am happy the way I am- feeling good and enjoying life."

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"I was just very concerned about the cleavage, because I wear things where you do show a bit of your cleavage and I just wanted to still be me.  I didn't want to have to wear things up to here (neck), I didn't want to have to cover up."