Mastectomy near Fort Lauderdale, FL
Losing one or both breasts is a difficult decision that many women make in order to win the battle against cancer. While overcoming cancer is a personally satisfying achievement, most women feel less feminine when they are missing their breasts. Dr. David J. Levens is a board-certified plastic surgeon who offers mastectomy breast reconstruction to women in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County.
Significant advances have been made in reconstruction techniques. In the 1970’s, the focus was on simply creating a breast mound, something to fill a bra cup. Mastectomy surgery was much more extensive and deforming. In the late 1980’s, more conservative (less deforming) removal techniques (“skin-sparing mastectomy”) combined with refinements of reconstructive procedures allowed for more cosmetic results.
In the past few years, newer medical techniques and devices have made it possible for surgeons to create a breast or breasts that come very close in appearance to matching a natural breast with as limited scars as possible. The future will hopefully bring the potential for total skin, nipple and arousal preservation with essentially hidden scars.
What is Mastectomy?
A mastectomy is a surgical procedure that removes one or both breasts as a way to treat breast cancer. The surgery may involve removing a portion of the breast or the complete breast, and one or both breasts may need to be removed. Often times, mastectomy provides the most viable option for eradicating breast cancer.
What is Breast Reconstruction?
Dr. Levens uses several techniques for breast reconstruction, all of which aim to restore the breasts to a natural shape and size. The surgery may involve restoring one or both breasts. In some cases, Dr. Levens uses only soft tissue to restore the breast, while other women benefit most from the insertion of a breast implant.
Benefits of Breast Reconstruction
The greatest benefits of breast reconstruction are emotional. Although women find great personal strength and satisfaction in winning their battles against cancer, the scars from the mastectomy have great implications. Women tend to feel very self-conscious and less feminine. Breast reconstruction restores a woman’s sense of femininity and makes her feel more confident about her appearance and the personal choices she made to overcome her breast cancer.
Good Candidates for Breast Reconstruction
Not every breast cancer patient chooses to have reconstruction surgery, nor should anyone ever be pressured to do so. Like any surgery, the procedure (typically performed in a hospital using general anesthesia) carries some risks. Visible incision lines usually are present. Further, though various breast implants are available to simulate a missing breast, a reconstructed breast may not have the same feel and nipple sensitivity as the natural breast.
On the other hand, for many women, what can be achieved through reconstruction is more important than what can’t be. Freedom from prosthetics, the ability to wear more revealing clothing and bathing suits, and the psychological comfort of having a natural-looking breast-all are benefits of reconstruction.
Federal law mandates that insurance companies cover breast reconstruction surgery for cancer patients. Reconstruction surgery can be done at the same time as a mastectomy or after the mastectomy has healed. Sometimes medical issues mandate that reconstruction is delayed. Also, some patients don’t want to have more surgery at one time than is absolutely necessary. When given the option, most choose to have reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy.
What Happens During Breast Reconstruction
The most common breast reconstruction technique, “implant reconstruction”, combines the expansion of chest wall tissues and subsequent insertion of an implant. If only one breast is being reconstructed, a lift, reduction or augmentation may be recommended for the opposite breast to improve symmetry in size and position of both breasts.
During a typical “implant type” reconstruction, the plastic surgeon inserts a balloon expander beneath the patient’s skin and chest muscle. Through a tiny valve mechanism buried beneath the skin, periodic injections of a salt-water solution gradually fill the expander over a few months. After the tissues over the breast area have stretched enough, the expander is usually removed in a second operation and a permanent implant, often silicone gel filled, is inserted. Some expanders are designed to be left in place as the final implant. The nipple and the dark skin surrounding it, the areola, are reconstructed in a subsequent procedure.
Rarely, patients may be able to avoid tissue expansion before receiving an implant. For these women, the surgeon will insert an implant during the initial step. Note: Breast implants do not impair breast health. A careful review of scientific research conducted by independent groups such as the Institute of Medicine has found no proven link between breast implants and autoimmune or other systemic diseases. Also, reconstruction has no known effect on the recurrence of cancer in the breast, nor does it generally interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment, should cancer recur.
Special Considerations for Breast Reconstruction Patients
An alternative to “implant reconstruction” is called, “flap reconstruction.” It involves the creation of a skin flap using tissue taken from other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, back, buttocks or thighs. This specialized surgery is less common but can provide a very natural and pleasing result, however, the procedure and recovery can be lengthier with potential for remote scarring and tissue loss.
Recovery after the Breast Reconstruction
If reconstruction is performed immediately after mastectomy, the patient is typically in the hospital for one to three days. Usually, a surgical drain is inserted to remove excess fluids from surgical sites, then removed within one to two weeks after surgery in the office. Most stitches are removed in 10 to 14 days. It can take up to six weeks to recover from a combined mastectomy and reconstruction or from a flap reconstruction alone. If implants are used without flaps and reconstruction is done apart from the mastectomy, recovery time may be less.
Though the reconstructed breast will never feel or look exactly like the natural breast it replaced, the differences are lessening with advancements and most patients say the surgery dramatically improved their appearance and self-confidence. In fact, in cases where both breasts are reconstructed, many patients say they’ve actually “never looked better”.
How Much Does Breast Reconstruction Cost?
Breast reconstruction is usually covered by your medical insurance. Our patient coordinator will help you determine how much of the cost is covered and the portion for which you are responsible. The cost of breast reconstruction is based upon an individual treatment plan that Dr. Levens develops during your consultation. After the appointment, we provide you with a total cost and explain our payment options, including cash, personal check, Visa®, MasterCard® and American Express®. If you are interested in financing your breast reconstruction, our patient coordinators will explain how to apply for CareCredit®, Alphaeon Credit, or Prosper® Healthcare Lending.
Learn More about Breast Reconstruction
Dr. Levens will review every aspect of breast reconstruction with you during your complimentary consultation. Patient Coordinators Diana and Chris will discuss fees, financing plans, and scheduling, and answer any additional questions. There is absolutely no obligation to schedule a procedure. To arrange your consultation, please contact us today.
Dr. Levens has been providing breast reconstruction for patients in Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, and throughout Broward County since 1989.