Breast reconstruction is one of many difficult decisions a woman will face with breast cancer and breast surgery. For some women, the desire to have the size, look, and feel of her natural breast restored as closely as possible is extremely important to her emotional recovery. Unfortunately, the desired results cannot be guaranteed. Yes, many reconstructions are successful and pleasing, but there are also many that do not turn out as planned.
Every woman is different physically, emotionally, and medically. The factors and variables, pros and cons, involved with the decision will differ for each woman. There are several options for the type of reconstruction whether it is an implant or tissue replacement (autologous reconstruction), as well as when the procedure(s) will be performed. No option is best overall or necessarily better than another since each situation is unalike. Risks are always involved, and outcomes are always unknown
Breast prostheses are not always needed after a breast reconstruction; however, they are sometimes necessary to enhance or correct the results. Silicone equalizers, partial inserts, or even full breast forms can be used. The main issues include unevenness, asymmetry, or differences in fullness. Breasts are not always perfect matches anyway, but there may be benefits of the use of breast forms, inserts, or equalizers for many women.
One example of a situation is when a tissue expander is used for an implant, especially after radiation therapy, the tissue may not stretch, or be similar in general, to the natural breast. The normal aging process can be a factor as well. It can have different effects on each breast, whether both are implants or only one is an implant, leading to the need for an equalizer.
Also, implants will rupture after a certain amount of time typically 10-15 years, although, not always the case as some do not last that long. You will be faced with the decision at that point to have your implants redone or to have them removed and begin using a full silicone breast form instead.
There are many other circumstances beyond those addressed above in which a prosthesis would be needed, but as stated before, each woman and situation differs as does the outcome. As always, it is important to discuss all options with your physician. You may find it helpful, also, to visit with other women that have had a breast reconstruction to gain a better understanding of the possibilities and for opinions and personal experiences.
By Sara Gunter and Karen Wilson
Karen, National Trainer and Certified Mastectomy Fitter for NEARLY ME® Mastectomy Products, is a three time survivor with a bilateral mastectomy.
Sara, Marketing Director for Nearly Me Technologies, LLC, is currently training for fitting certification and looks forward to becoming a National Trainer in the future.