Breast Cancer in women

Breast reconstruction after breast cancer

Breast reconstruction is an operation to make a new breast shape after mastectomy (removal of a breast), or to improve the breast shape after lumpectomy (removal of part of the breast).
Up to half of all women who have a mastectomy choose to have breast reconstruction, either at the time of their initial surgery or afterwards. The aim of breast reconstruction is to match the remaining natural breast as closely as possible. This can either be done by using an implant, which is put under the skin and muscle that covers the chest, or by using skin, fat (and sometimes muscle) from another part of the body to create a breast shape. A combination of these techniques is used for some women. The surgeon advises women on the type of reconstruction that’s best for them. This depends on:

  • how much of the breast tissue has been removed
  • how healthy the tissue is at the planned operation site
  • whether or not a woman has had radiotherapy to the breast area or chest wall
  • a woman’s general health and body build
  • a woman’s personal preference.

It’s possible to create a new nipple (using own body tissue and by tattoos) and this is often done as a separate operation once the reconstructed breast has settled into its final shape. It may be possible for it to be done at the same time as the breast reconstruction. Not everyone chooses to have a nipple reconstruction and stick on nipples are available. 

Here women discuss their experiences of breast reconstruction. One woman, who had breast reconstruction over 20 years ago, discussed her satisfaction with the surgery.

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A few women had a mastectomy and reconstruction at the same time, and one of these women considered having nipple reconstruction.

One woman described having two reconstructive operations due to complications, but explained that this was uncommon.

Some women had a partial reconstruction following a lumpectomy.

Women also commented on the care they received from hospital staff, and support from friends and family. Some women advised taking time to recover from the operations before resuming work or driving.

A few women talked about their reasons for wanting breast reconstruction, although they had not yet had reconstructive surgery. One woman explained that she was considering reconstruction but had not yet made a final decision.

More experiences of breast reconstruction can be found on our DCIS website.

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Last reviewed August 2018.
Last updated May 2015.


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