Breast Reconstruction in Savannah, GA
Have you undergone a breast surgery such as mastectomy or lumpectomy? If so, a breast reconstruction procedure at Savannah Plastic Surgery can help restore wholeness to your breasts. We are proud to offer this treatment to patients living in Savannah and the nearby cities of Chatham County, GA, as well as Bluffton, SC.
What Is a Breast Reconstruction?
Breast reconstruction is a surgical technique that restores shape and symmetry to the breast following a mastectomy or lumpectomy.
Mastectomy and lumpectomy are two surgical procedures performed for the treatment of breast cancer. Some women choose to have a preventative mastectomy if they have a high risk of developing breast cancer.
- Lumpectomy – A cancerous lump is removed from the breast while preserving as much healthy breast tissue as possible. In some cases, lumpectomy may be performed to remove a non-cancerous lump.
- Mastectomy – The whole breast is removed.
Breast reconstruction combines surgical techniques such as tissue flaps, breast implants, or both to create results that look and feel as natural as possible. The goal of surgery is to restore the breasts as near as possible to their original shape, in terms of size, symmetry, and appearance.
There are two main categories of breast reconstruction options:
- Reconstruction with implants, where an implant is used to form the size and shape of the new breast.
- Fat grafts – , where tissue is taken from another part of the body and used to form the new breast. This is similar to how breast augmentation with fat transfer uses fat. removed from the body via liposuction to enhance breast size. In either case, the opposite breast may also be altered so the final result is symmetrical.
Why Have Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Many patients choose to have a breast reconstruction to restore their sense of wholeness and femininity after the removal of part or all of a breast. For many patients, this is also the final step in breast cancer treatment and signifies the end of a difficult journey. If you’ve had a mastectomy or lumpectomy, there are many reasons why you might want to have reconstruction surgery. Some common ones are:
- To restore your breast shape and the silhouette you’re used to having
- To help clothes fit and look the way you’re used to
- To help you feel better about your body if the loss of part or all of a breast has affected your body image
Are There Any Non-Surgical Alternatives to Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
The decision to have breast reconstruction surgery is a highly personal one, and it may not be the right choice for everyone. While some women want to have reconstructive surgery as soon as possible, others choose to delay surgery, and some decide not to have reconstruction surgery at all.
Women who don’t have reconstruction surgery can choose to wear a breast form, or prosthesis. This is an artificial form designed to mimic the look and feel of a natural breast. It’s worn inside the bra. Wearing a breast form can help prevent issues with balance or posture that may arise from having asymmetrical breasts. This isn’t a problem for everyone, but for women with large breasts, asymmetry may cause discomfort.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Breast reconstruction surgery is designed for people who have lost part or all of a breast, typically as a result of breast cancer treatment.
To be a good candidate for reconstructive surgery, it’s most important that you have realistic expectations for the results. Depending on the extent of the surgery, a reconstructed breast may look and feel different from the natural breast it is replacing. In addition, breast sensation may be temporarily or permanent altered. And you may have visible scarring on the reconstructed breast and other parts of the body, depending on the surgical technique used in surgery.
If you have a positive outlook, realistic expectations, and your health is generally good, then you are likely a good candidate for reconstruction surgery. To get a better idea of what to expect for your body and specific situation, it’s important to have a consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon.
What Happens at a Breast Reconstruction Surgery Consultation?
Your breast reconstruction consultation is a vital part of planning for surgery. At this appointment you’ll undergo a physical exam, and you and your surgeon will discuss a number of aspects of the procedure, including:
- Your expectations and goals, and the likely outcomes of reconstructive surgery
- Your medical history and current health status, including previous surgeries, medical treatments, and current medication use
- Any questions and concerns you have about the surgery, including aftercare and recovery
- How your procedure will be performed, including implants versus flap reconstruction, and which option will best meet your needs
Note: Organizations such as the American Cancer Society recommend that women who have breast cancer surgery consider talk over reconstruction options with their surgeon prior to having a mastectomy or lumpectomy. For some women, this allows them to have reconstruction surgery at the same time as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, rather than two separate procedures.
How Should I Prepare for Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
Depending on your current lifestyle, preparing for surgery may involve making some temporary lifestyle changes.
For instance, if you’re a smoker, it’s important to stop smoking for several weeks prior to surgery and to avoid smoking for as long as possible after surgery. This is because smoking reduces your blood oxygen levels, making surgery riskier and slowing down wound healing.
Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can also affect your surgical risk level. In this category are blood thinners, which can increase your risk of dangerous bleeding during surgery. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter thinners. If you take these medications, your cosmetic surgeon may advise you to stop taking them temporarily.
What Is Breast Reconstruction Surgery Like?
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed at the hospital and sometimes in our surgicenter. It begins with using the appropriate anesthetic, ensuring that patients are safe and comfortable during the procedure.
There are several techniques that may be used in breast reconstruction, such as tissue flaps, breast implants, or both. When breast implants are used, they are inserted beneath the skin, either over or under the pectoral muscle. (Unsure whether to choose a saline or silicone breast implant? This may help. You should also discuss it with your surgeon.)
The alternative is flap reconstruction, where skin and tissue are removed from another part of the body, such as the thigh, buttocks, or upper back. The skin and tissue are relocated to the chest and reshaped to form a new breast.
The exact approach for a breast reconstruction varies significantly depending on the individual patient's treatment goals and current condition. This includes both the techniques used to reconstruct the breast and the location and size of surgical incisions needed. The best way to discuss the specifics of your own treatment is to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.
Breast Reconstruction Recovery and Aftercare
After breast reconstruction, you’ll experience bruising and discomfort or pain for several days in the breast and in any donor sites used as sources of skin and tissue. You’ll also feel fatigue that may linger for several days.
You’ll need to wear a surgical bra for several weeks after your surgery. This is important to provide support and protection for your breasts while they’re healing. It also helps reduce swelling. In addition, your surgeon may place a drainage tube under your skin. This is to help drain excess fluid to further reduce swelling.
Plan to take at least a week off work and other activities. You’ll also need to avoid lifting, exercise, and other strenuous activities for at least one month after surgery. Strenuous activity can cause swelling and may impact your surgical results.
Your breasts will continue to heal for several weeks, with bruising gradually fading and swelling reducing slowly over time. Follow your surgeon’s instructions as closely as possible to help ensure your recovery proceeds smoothly.
Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction Surgery
Risks of the Procedure
- Anesthesia: Between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 10,000 people are allergic or sensitive to anesthesia. If you’ve had general anesthesia previously with no problem, it’s unlikely you’ll have a reaction to any subsequent anesthesia.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): The risk of a blood clot or deep vein thrombosis is temporarily increased after surgery. This risk is higher if you’re a smoker. To help prevent DVT, try to resume some level of activity as soon as your surgeon says it’s safe to do so.
- Infection: Infection is a risk for any surgical procedure; antibiotics can help. If your surgeon prescribes antibiotics, take the full course as directed to minimize infection risk.
- Seroma: Seroma occurs due to a buildup of fluid in the breast, typically around an implant. For most people, this goes away on its own as part of the healing process.
- Loss of sensation: Many women experience some sensation loss after breast surgery. This may be temporary in some cases, but certain types of reconstruction surgery, including flap reconstruction, are more likely to lead to permanent loss of sensation.
Breast Implant Risks
If you choose to have a reconstruction with implants, there are some additional risks to be aware of:
Implant rupture: The rupture of an implant doesn’t necessarily lead to any health risks. Silicone implant rupture may cause some breast pain or scarring, and rupture of a saline implant will cause the breast implant to deflate. In both cases, this may require revision surgery to correct the problem.
Capsular contraction: In some cases, scarring that forms around the breast implant may tighten and cause the implant to contract and move from its original location. This can cause pain and change the appearance of the breast, requiring revision surgery to replace the implant.
Breast implant illness: Some women who have breast implants are affected by an illness that causes symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. The reason why this happens is still being investigated, but for most women, removing the implants relieves the symptoms.
Breast implant associated lymphoma (BIA-ALCL): This very rare non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be triggered by breast implants. Treatment involves surgery to remove the implant.
Flap Reconstruction Risks
Loss of sensation: Flap reconstruction involves transferring skin and tissue from a donor site elsewhere on your body and using that donor tissue to reconstruct the breast. Because a significant amount of skin is removed, nerve endings are affected both at the donor site and on the chest. As a result, some women experience a loss of sensation in both locations. For many, this is temporary, but for some the loss of sensation is permanent.
Tissue death (necrosis): Part or all of the skin flap used in reconstructing the breast may suffer from necrosis, potentially affecting the success of the procedure. There is also a risk of necrosis of transferred skin or fat, which may affect breast symmetry and appearance.
What Breast Reconstruction Results Can I Expect?
You’ll see the initial results from your breast reconstruction immediately, but it will take several weeks—or even a few months—for the swelling to subside and for you to see the final results.
It’s important to understand that breast reconstruction isn’t able to completely restore your breast to how it was naturally, especially if you had a mastectomy. Your reconstructed breast will look and feel different, even after it’s finished healing. And although some sensation may return over time, reconstruction won’t restore a normal level of sensation.
Scarring can take one to two years to fully heal and fade to their final appearance. Some scarring will always be visible, both on the breast and on any donor tissue sites.
You may find that you go through some emotional changes while your body is healing. This is normal after any surgery but especially after a reconstructive procedure. It might take time for you to start thinking of your reconstructed breast as being part of your own body. This is normal too and happens to many women who have this surgery.
The results of breast reconstruction surgery are permanent. However, if your surgery involved placing an implant, it’s likely you will need to have the implant replaced at some point in the future.
How Much Does a Breast Reconstruction Cost?
The cost of a breast reconstruction at Savannah Plastic Surgery can vary but is often covered by health insurance. The exact cost of your treatment depends on several factors, including the type of reconstruction method you choose and whether you need to have surgery on your remaining breast to achieve symmetry.
When you have your surgical consultation, we’ll discuss all these factors with you and develop a treatment plan that addresses your goals and needs. Once your treatment plan is finalized, we can provide an exact cost of treatment. We can also determine your eligibility for health insurance coverage. To learn more about our insurance policies or your payment options, please refer to our financing and insurance page.
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Breast Reconstruction Surgery?
By federal law, health insurance providers that cover mastectomy for breast cancer are mandated to also cover the patient’s reconstructive procedure following mastectomy. This includes any surgery needed for the opposite breast in order to achieve symmetrical results.
However, there is no equivalent mandate for the lumpectomy procedure. This means that, while breast reconstruction surgery is very often covered by insurance, it’s still important to confirm your eligibility with your insurance provider prior to having the surgery. Make sure to get this in writing from your provider and confirm that the full cost of your reconstruction procedure is covered.
Financing Options for Breast Reconstruction Surgery at Savannah Plastic Surgery
SPS offers several payment options, including cash, checks, and all credit cards. In addition, we accept payment via Alpheon® and Care Credit® financing. Please visit our financing and insurance page for more information on financing options.
Contact us today to schedule your consultation and discuss your breast reconstruction procedure with one of our doctors. We proudly serve the residents of Savannah and the surrounding areas of Chatham County, including those in Brunswick and Hinesville, Georgia and in Bluffton, South Carolina.