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Impact of ongoing breast cancer treatments on breast reconstruction options

If you are considering a breast reconstruction after a mastectomy for breast cancer, your decision about the type and timing of reconstruction is likely to be influenced by what treatments you are receiving.

Impact of radiotherapy on breast reconstruction

Radiotherapy is a key factor in deciding about the timing of breast reconstruction. Radiotherapy after breast reconstruction is likely to affect the look and feel of the reconstructed breast. This is particularly an issue following breast reconstruction using implants.

If radiotherapy is recommended as part of your breast cancer treatment, breast reconstruction may be delayed until after radiotherapy is completed. This will ensure that treatment can start as soon as possible and will help to improve the outcome of the breast reconstruction.

An alternative is to have a breast reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy but to have a ‘sacrificial implant’ inserted. After radiotherapy, the implant is removed and a different form of breast reconstruction can be done.

These decisions are complicated by the fact that the need for radiotherapy may not be known until after the tissue removed during mastectomy has been examined by a pathologist.

Impact of chemotherapy on breast reconstruction

If chemotherapy is recommended as part of your breast cancer treatment, breast reconstruction may be delayed until after chemotherapy, so that recovery from breast reconstruction surgery does not delay starting chemotherapy. A less complex type of breast reconstruction with a shorter recovery time, such as breast reconstruction using implants, may be a better option if you need chemotherapy and would prefer an immediate breast reconstruction.