Breast cancer

Updated 13 November 2017

When should breast reconstruction be done?

Traditionally, this operation was done six months after the cancer operation, but there are advantages and disadvantages to this.

Traditionally, it was done six months after the cancer operation. There are advantages to this and this may still be the best for some people.

Advantages of delayed reconstruction:

  • Mastectomy is not a very painful operation and the postoperative discomfort is often psychological as much as physical. Having breast reconstruction makes the operation bigger and more painful.
  • Some women find that having a flat chest is acceptable and choose not to have a reconstruction after some time.
  • If postoperative radiotherapy is needed, it may cause distortion of the breast after reconstruction.

Disadvantages of delayed reconstruction:

  • When a regular reconstruction has been done, the chest wall will be flat. In order to allow for a reconstruction, the skin either has to be ‘stretched’ or skin has to be used from another part of the body e.g. the tummy or the back.

Advantages of immediate reconstruction:

  • Only one procedure is necessary.
  • The mastectomy can sometimes be done through the nipple so the normal breast skin can be used for the reconstruction.
  • The results are better cosmetically.
  • The patient’s nipple may sometimes be used if the cancer is at the edge of the breast tissue.
  • The psychological trauma after the operation is less as the patient can wake up from the operation with a “breast”.



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Ask the Expert

Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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